The standards that apply to agricultural and nonagricultural work differ significantly with respect to the hours of work allowable for children and adolescents. For nonagricultural jobs, the FLSA limits the number of hours and the times of day at which work can begin and end for those under the age of 16; youth over the age of 16 are allowed to work unlimited numbers of hours. Most of the specific requirements regarding permissible hours of work for nonagricultural jobs do not apply to agricultural work. The exception is work during school hours. No one under the age of 16 may work during school hours except on a farm owned and operated by the child's parents. As noted above, children working on their parents' farms are completely exempted from coverage under the FLSA: Regardless of age, they may perform any job—whether hazardous or not—with no time restrictions. The general standards for permissible hours of work and starting and stopping times in nonagricultural work are shown in Box 6-1. The permissible age for work, jobs, hours, and start and stop times in agricultural jobs are shown in Box 6-2.
Despite federal rules, much is left to the states, which can and often do adopt less stringent standards, particularly regarding hours of work. For example, a number of states allow 14-and 15-year-olds to work more than 40 hours per week while school is in session (National Consumers League, 1992). In the absence of federal regulations limiting the maximum hours of work for 16-and 17-year-olds, some states have adopted their own varying standards, while many states follow the federal lead and have no standards for the hours 16-and 17-year-olds are allowed to work. A few states, such as Washington and New York, have adopted child labor standards that are more stringent than federal protections. For example, New York uses the federal standards for 14-and 15-year-olds, but it also imposes slightly less restrictive hour and time of work limitations on 16-and 17-year-olds. Washington's child labor law is stricter than the federal standard for all adolescents, limiting 14-and 15-year-olds to 16 hours of work per week and 16-and 17-year-olds to 20 hours of work per week while school is in session. State laws are summarized in Table 6-1 (at the end of this chapter). When both federal and state laws are applicable, the FLSA requires that the more stringent law be followed.