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Child labor: Know the facts to protect your business and our kids

By Brock Huffstutler

July 7, 2023

Kids on the job siteWhether it’s through summer/seasonal jobs or work partnerships with schools during the academic year, many equipment and event rental operators employ minors from time to time.

These employment opportunities for kids have always been mutually beneficial for the budding worker and the rental operation, but over time the kind of duties children can perform on-site has tightened up in the eyes of the law.

Add in the growing scarcity in some areas of school-sponsored work programs — which in some cases have permitted certain child labor rule exceptions — and you have a situation where employers need to be extra attentive to the rules that go along with hiring kids.

“In the past, we had worked with a local school district that had an active work program. We were able to hire a person under the age of 18 but allow them to do everything an 18-year-old could do because it was an educational program. Many of those programs have been cut around here so we are now limited to what those under 18 can do,” says Brittany Vruno, CERP, ECP-SM/ST, office manager, Crown Rental, Burnsville, Minn.

Vruno says that while Crown Rental still employs those under 18, her company needs to be selective on headcount and the kind of work they can perform. “It hasn’t prevented us from hiring them, but it has limited us to how many we can have around. Many of them work as manual laborers loading and unloading party items or cleaning tents and helping out on event setups. It’s weird that they can drive a vehicle at age 16, but the second they step foot into our workplace, they can’t run anything with an engine, especially with all the training we provide,” she says.

U.S. Department of LaborThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has laid out rules surrounding the employment of minors, including permitted and non-permitted work (including at what ages they may operate power-driven machinery), allowable hours and special provisions.

Don’t run afoul of policies put into place to protect officially-employed children on the job site. Ensuring their safety and welfare can help protect your business from thousands of dollars in penalties for violations (and into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event of serious injury or death).

Click here for DOL Wage and Hour Division (WHD) rules and regulations on child labor provisions specifically for nonagricultural occupations.

For a more comprehensive look at DOL’s child labor guidelines, click here.