Child Labor Highlights -Retail Industry





Child Labor Highlights - Retail Industry                                                                

No. C-10                                                                                                          September 2000


This informational sheet is designed to assist employers in understanding the requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as they apply to minors employed in retail establishments.  It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.  Additional materials are available by calling the offices on the reverse of this sheet or by contacting the Department's Internet home page at


The FLSA protects young workers from employment that might interfere with their educational opportunities or be detrimental to their health or well-being. 


The FLSA applies to most workers in the U.S.  It covers workers who engage in interstate commerce or the production of goods for interstate commerce.  Employees who handle credit cards, order goods from out of state, or unload goods from an out of state supplier are individually covered regardless of the size of the business.  The FLSA also covers retail enterprises which are comprised of one or more establishments in one or more corporations having a combined annual dollar volume of business done of at least $500,000.


The minimum age for employment in non-agricultural employment is 14Employers are required to record and maintain the date of birth for all employees under the age of 19.


CHILD LABOR STANDARDS FOR 16- AND 17-YEAR OLD YOUTHS - Youths aged 16 and 17 may work at any time for unlimited hours.  They are not allowed to work in jobs declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.  There are 17 hazardous orders that prohibit employment of employees under 18 in specific occupations.  The prohibited occupations that are most commonly found in the retail industry are operating, assisting to operate and/or cleaning power-driven dough mixers, meat slicers and meat grinders, regardless of what products are being mixed, sliced or ground.  Cleaning the parts after the meat machines are disassembled is also prohibited.  Other prohibited occupations found in this industry are operating forklifts; paper balers; and motor vehicles. Driving a motor vehicle is prohibited even when the vehicle is owned by the minor. Note: 17 year-old employees are allowed to drive motor vehicles on public roads or highways only under very limited conditions. 


CHILD LABOR STANDARDS FOR 14- AND 15-YEAR-OLD YOUTHS - Youths aged 14 and 15 may work in certain jobs outside school hours provided they do not exceed 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school   week, 8 hours on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a non-school week.  The 18 hour limit in a school week applies to all weeks in which school is in session for any portion of the week.  The allowed hours are not increased despite the fact one or more school holidays may fall in the week.  School days are defined as any day school is in session, which includes FridayA week is defined as 12:01 a.m. Sunday through midnight Saturday.  In addition, they cannot work before 7 a.m. year round, after 7 p.m. from Labor Day until June 1st, or after 9 p.m. June 1st through Labor Day.  The time restrictions apply to all week days, including Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Minors employed through a Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) are permitted to work during school hours and up to 23 hours in a school week, but are restricted to all other hours standards. 



Workers aged 14 and 15 may be employed in a variety of jobs including but not limited to office work, cashiering, pricing, carry-out, waiting on customers, serving food, busing tables, preparing salads and other foods, and most general cleaning, including washing dishes, vacuuming and waxing floors.


Minors who are 14 and 15 years old may not work in certain jobs including most processing work, unloading or loading trucks, repairing equipment, using power mowers, or jobs requiring use of ladders, food choppers/cutters or working in freezers or meat coolers.  Minors aged 14 and 15 are not allowed to perform any work in walk-in coolers, such as inventory, stocking, cleaning, etc.  They are not allowed to perform cooking (except at soda fountains, lunch counters, etc., when cooking is in plain view of the public), or baking.  Minors age 14 and 15 are also prohibited from performing occupations declared hazardous (as discussed under the employment of 16- and 17-year-old youths). 


The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the federal child labor laws.  Employers may be subject to fines up to $10,000 for each minor found employed in violation of the child labor requirements where the violations do not involve death or serious injury of the minor.  A penalty of $10,000 may be assessed for each violation that results in the death or serious injury of a minor.  Illinois also has a child labor law.  When both state and federal child labor laws apply, the stricter law must be followed.


Wage and Hour Division offices are listed in telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration.  Offices serving the areas in Illinois outside of the Chicago and Rockford metropolitan areas are listed below.


Springfield, IL District Office

509 West Capitol Ave., Ste. 205

Springfield, IL 62704-1929

Telephone number:  217/492-4060

FAX No.:  217/492-4910



Field Offices


221 N. Broadway,  Suite 103, Urbana, IL 61801, 217/398-5581

105 S. 6th Street, Room 232, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864, 618/242-4940    

2918 W. Willow Knolls, Ste D, Peoria, IL 61614, 309/671-7058 

1515 Fifth Ave., Rm 313, Moline, IL 61265, 309/757-5720