There was a time when children of any age were allowed to work and were even forced to work. But federal and state child labor laws now protect those under the age of majority from being asked or required to carry heavy workloads. In the state of Nevada, both state law and federal law regulate the employment of minors, and city and county laws provide additional protection.
Child Labor in the United States
American history is replete with examples of child labor abuse, including forms of child labor like indentured servitude and child slavery. And this wasn't just on the farm. During the industrial revolution, as more people started working in factories and cities, business owners preferred hiring children who were paid less, more easily managed, and less likely to strike.
The Northern states generally opposed child labor, causing the transplant of factories to the South. By 1900, thousands of American children were working. Many were employed in the mines, glass factories, textile factories and canneries. They also continued to work in farms, in home industries, and as newsboys, messengers, bootblacks and peddlers.
Early Child Labor Laws
Child labor began to decline in the early part of the 20th century, and labor and reform movements began urging new labor standards in general and especially, child labor reform. Middle class workers, many of them women, generated the National Consumers’ League in 1899 and the National Child Labor Committee in 1904.
These two organizations both challenged current child labor practices and advocated for free, compulsory education for all children. These efforts came to a head with the passage of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. This law set standards for child labor and continues to play an important role in regulating child labor today.
Nevada Child Employment Laws
Two laws govern child labor in Nevada, one federal, one state. They are:
- Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 609 (NRS 609), which governs the employment of minors on the state level.
Both laws create different levels of protection for different age groups. These include children who are:
- Nevada residents 16 and 17 years old.
- Nevada residents under 16, but above 14 years old.
- Nevada residents under the age of 14 years.
It will come as no surprise that the laws offer more protection to younger children. Those over the age of 16 have very few protections at all. Under both laws, children of any age are generally permitted to work for businesses owned by their parents, except for those under age 16 who may not be employed in mining or manufacturing.
Children 16 or 17 Years of Age
There are very few restrictions on working for children who are just a year or two away from the age of majority. They are permitted to work the same hours as an adult in Nevada unless federal law or city or county regulations provide greater protection.
The FLSA prohibits children of 16 or 17 years from working in any occupation that the Secretary of Labor has declared to be hazardous to young adults or detrimental to their health or well-being. Currently, these include 17 hazardous occupation categories for this age group. The law imposes a partial or total ban on these occupations for young people.
List of Hazardous Occupations
The FLSA prohibits young people who are at least 16, but not yet 18, from working in these occupations or limits their work. Prohibitions include:
- Manufacturing or storing explosives. Minors cannot work where explosives are manufactured or stored.
- Driving a motor vehicle or work as an outside helper on motor vehicles except that 17-year-olds may drive cars or small trucks during daylight hours under strictly limited circumstances.
- Coal mining.
- Forest fire fighting, forest fire prevention, timber tract, forestry service and occupations in logging and sawmill operations. Most jobs that entail extinguishing an actual fire, logging or sawmills are banned.
- Power-driven woodworking machines, including chain saws, nailing machines and sanders. *
- Any work with exposure to radioactive substances and ionizing radiation.
- Power-driven hoisting apparatus like forklifts, non-automatic elevators, skid-steers, skid-steer loaders, backhoes, man lifts, scissor lifts, cherry pickers, work-assist platforms, boom trucks and cranes.
- Power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines and may not operate certain power-driven metal-working machines.
- Jobs in mining at metal mines, quarries, aggregate mines and other mining sites, including underground work in mines, work in or about open cut mines, open quarries, and sand and gravel operations.
- Power-driven meat-processing machines, slaughtering and meat packing plants.
- Jobs in meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, rendering and packing establishments.*
- Power-driven bakery machines, such as vertical dough and batter mixers. Also, dough rollers, rounders, dividers and sheeters, and cookie or cracker machines.
- Jobs using balers, compactors and power-driven paper-products machines.
- Manufacturing of brick, tile and related products.
- Power-driven circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers and abrasive cutting discs.
- Wrecking, demolition and ship-breaking operations.
- Roofing operations and work performed on or about a roof.
- Trenching and excavation operations.
Hours of Work for Minors Under 16
In Nevada, those under the age of 16 cannot work more than eight hours a day or 48 hours in a week. Exceptions are made if they work on a farm or perform domestic duties such as babysitting in someone's house.
However, under Nevada state law, minors under the age of 16 cannot work at certain tasks. These include:
- Preparing anything in which dangerous or poisonous acids are used.
- Manufacturing paints, colors or white lead.
- Dipping, drying or packing matches.
- Manufacturing goods for immoral purposes.
- Working anywhere that tobacco is manufactured or prepared, such as a cigar factory.
- Working anywhere where malt or alcoholic liquors are manufactured, packed, wrapped or bottled, such as a brewery or distillery.
- Working in any glass furnace, smelter, outside erection and repair of electric wires, running or management of elevators, lifts or hoisting machines, or oiling hazardous or dangerous machinery in motion.
- Doing any job requiring switch tending, gate tending or track repairing.
Times When Minors Can Work
Note that state law does not contain any language limiting the days these minors can work in Nevada. For example, there is no law that limits workdays to weekdays, or that excepts holidays and weekends. The federal youth employment provisions, however, limit the times of day, number of hours, and industries and occupations in which 14- and 15-year-olds may be employed. Their work must be:
- Outside school hours.
- No more than three hours on a school day, including Fridays.
- No more than eight hours on a non-school day.
- No more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session.
- No more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session.
- Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. except between June 1 and Labor Day, when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m.
Employment of Minors Under 14
If a child under the age of 14 wants to work in Nevada, his parent or legal guardian must request permission from the judge of the district court in the county where the family lives. County courts have forms for parents to use for this purpose. Once the minor obtains court permission, they are very limited in their work hours.
Children under 14 do not need court permission to undertake farm or domestic work. Nor do child actors. In fact, minors employed in the entertainment industry are exempt from most of Nevada's child labor restrictions. However, any entertainment work contract for minor must be approved by a court, and a special guardian must be appointed to represent the best interests of the minor.
Youth Working in Las Vegas
Any minor who plans to find employment in Las Vegas has to jump through certain hoops before they can be employed lawfully. Depending on which occupation they wish to enter in Las Vegas, they may need a work card or sheriff's card, provided by Clark County Juvenile Justice Services for those 17 and under.
The purpose of the work card is to keep track of all employees of the gaming industry, document their activity, and investigate their age.
They may also need a health card. This happens if the minor is working in an occupation where they handle food. This includes kitchen staff, servers, managers and anyone who could come into contact with food, ice, beverages and utensils.
Oppressive Child Labor
Under the federal law, the employment of any minor in an occupation for which they do not meet the minimum age standards set out in the FLSA is deemed to be oppressive child labor. Essentially it means hiring a minor below the minimum age established under the FLSA for the occupation in which a minor is employed or in which their employment is contemplated.
In order to allow an employer to be sure that they are not inadvertently violating the minimum age standards under the federal law, it provides a way for the employer to protect themselves. This is the age certificate. The FLSA provides:
“Oppressive child labor shall not be deemed to exist by virtue of the employment in any occupation of any person with respect to whom the employer shall have on file an unexpired certificate issued and held pursuant to regulations of the Secretary of Labor certifying that such person is above the oppressive child-labor age.”
Requirements for a Certification of Age
To be valid, a certification of age must include more than just the name of the minor and their date of birth. Under federal law, this is what is required:
- Name and address of minor.
- Place and date of birth of minor attached to a statement setting out the evidence on which it is based. The place of birth is not strictly necessary on the certificate if it is kept on file by the person issuing the certificate.
- Gender of the minor.
- Minor's signature.
- Name and address of the minor's parent or guardian. No need for this to appear on the certificate, but it should be kept on file by the person issuing the certificate.
- Name and address of employer, if minor is under 18.
- Industry of employer, if minor is under 18.
- Occupation of minor, if minor is under 18.
- Signature of the issuing officer.
- Date and location of the place where the certificate was issued.
As long as the employer has an unexpired certificate on file, they cannot be charged with oppressive child labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Validity of Federal and State Certificates
Federal certificates, issued by a person authorized by the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, show that such minor is above the oppressive child-labor age applicable to the occupation in which they are employed are valid for this purpose.
State certificates are also valid if issued by or under the supervision of a state agency in a state designated for this purpose by the administrator showing that such minor is above the oppressive child-labor age applicable to the occupation in which the minor is employed.
- Nevada State Legislature: Nevada Revised Statutes: Chapter 609 -- Employment of Minors
- Nevada Association of Employers: Employing Minors
- Minimum Wage.org: Nevada Child Labor Laws
- The University of Iowa Labor Center: Child Labor in U.S. History
- U.S. Department of Labor: Child Labor
- xTam Nevada: Sheriff Health TAM Card
- Code of Federal Regulations: PART 570 - CHILD LABOR REGULATIONS, ORDERS AND STATEMENTS OF INTERPRETATION
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.