Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

Child labor laws

Much is required of my children. Especially in the summer when there is so much work to be done. My wife and I expect our children to help mow the lawn, do dishes, weed the garden, and clean the house. In addition, we expect them to work on the farm irrigating, feeding, fixing fence, and taking care of animals. Neighboring farmers who needed help on their farms have also employed our children. Children who are employed on farms or ranches not owned by their parents are subject to state and federal child labor laws.

Last October the U.S. Department of Labor proposed changes to child labor laws that would have made it illegal for children to work on farms until they were sixteen years old. On April 26th of this year the Department of Labor withdrew these changes due to lack of public support.

While children are allowed to work on farms in Idaho, there are important restrictions set forth in the law. For example, children under the age of sixteen are not allowed to be employed in a hazardous agricultural job. Some hazardous jobs include operating a tractor over 20 PTO horsepower or connecting or disconnecting implements; operating a hay baler, potato digger, or post-hold digger; working inside a grain bin or a manure pit; handling explosives or poisonous chemicals; and, working from a ladder or scaffold at a height over 20 feet. In addition, children under fourteen are not allowed to work on farms at night, nor during school hours.

Children over the age of 12 can work in agriculture doing non-hazerdous jobs when school is not in session for a period of two weeks or more. For example, it is legal to hire kids over the age of 12 to help with potato harvest, irrigation, and rouging potatoes!

The purpose of child labor laws is to protect children. The purpose of good hard work on the farm is to teach children character and habits that will last them the rest of their lives.

– Lance J. Schuster is a lawyer at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or

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