BOX 6-1Fair Labor Standards Act Restrictions on Hours Worked in Nonagricultural Jobs

  • Individuals aged 18 or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not, for unlimited hours, in accordance with minimum wage and overtime requirements.

  • Children aged 16 or 17 may perform any nonhazardous job for unlimited hours.

  • Children aged 14 or 15 may work outside school hours in various nonmanufacturing, nonmining, nonhazardous jobs up to:

  • 3 hours on a school day;

  • 18 hours in a school week;

  • 8 hours on a nonschool day; and

  • 40 hours in a nonschool week.

  • Children aged 14 or 15 may work only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.

Federal law does not authorize the Department of Labor to regulate the maximum permissible hours for 16-and 17-year-olds, largely for historical reasons: The FLSA was passed in 1938, when many 16-and 17-year-olds were working full-time and not attending school (Greenberger and Steinberg, 1986; Kett, 1977). Now, the vast majority of adolescents are still in school. In 1990, 93 percent of 16-year-olds and 88 percent of 17-year-olds were in school.2

It has been suggested that some 16-and 17-year-old students might drop out of school if their work hours are limited. Although this committee did not thoroughly review the literature on dropping out of school, it appears that multiple factors, many of which precede entry into the work force, may lead youngsters to drop out of school (Steinberg, 1996). Young people who drop out of school do not necessarily enter the work force: Based on 1990 census data, 73


School enrollment figures are from an analysis of 1990 census data performed by National Research Council staff.

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