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Follow laws when hiring teenagers, seasonal workers

Q]I wish to hire several teenagers over the summer. What age is considered the legal age by the Child Labor Law?

A] While 16 is the minimum age for most nonfarm work, children ages 14 and 15 may work outside of school hours in certain occupations under certain conditions.

They may, at any age: deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movies or theatrical productions; work for their parents in their solely-owned nonfarm businesses (except in mining, manufacturing or in any other occupation declared hazardous by the Secretary); or gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.

For further information, go to or call 1-866-487-2365.

Q] What are the laws regarding the migrant and seasonal agricultural workers? Who oversees the requirements of the law?

A] The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) requires farm labor contractors, agricultural employers and agricultural associations that recruit, solicit, hire, employ, furnish, transport or house agricultural workers, as well as providers of migrant housing, to meet certain minimum requirements in their dealings with migrant and seasonal agricultural workers. The following requirements include:

  • Farm labor contractor registration: Farm labor contractors, and any employee who performs farm labor contracting functions, must register with the Department of Labor before recruiting, soliciting, hiring, employing, furnishing or transporting any migrant or seasonal agricultural worker. Agricultural employers and associations (and their employees) need not register as farm labor contractors.
  • Verification: An agricultural employer or association using the services of a farm labor contractor must first verify the registration status of the farm labor contractor. This process includes determining that the contractor is properly authorized for all activities he or she will undertake. To verify registration status, call 1-866-4USWAGE.
  • Employment relationship: Under certain circumstances, the Department of Labor may determine that an agricultural employer or association that uses the services of a farm labor contractor is a joint employer of the agricultural workers furnished by the farm labor contractor. In joint employment situations, the agricultural employer or association is equally responsible with the farm labor contractor for compliance with employment-related MSPA obligations, such as the proper payment of wages.
  • Disclosure: Each migrant and seasonal day-haul worker must receive a written disclosure at the time of recruitment that describes the terms and conditions of his or her employment. The disclosure must be written in the worker's language. The employer must also post in a conspicuous place at the job site a poster setting forth the rights and protections that MSPA affords workers.
  • Information and Record keeping: Each farm labor contractor, agricultural employer or association that employs any agricultural worker must maintain payroll records for each worker showing the basis on which wages were paid, the number of piecework units earned, the number of hours worked, the total pay for each pay period, the amounts and reasons for any deductions and the net pay.

    The employer must provide all workers with these itemized statements and must preserve these records for three years. If a farm labor contractor is performing the payroll function, the contractor must provide a copy of the pay records to the person to whom the workers are furnished (e.g., agricultural employer or association), and that person must keep the records for three years.

  • Wages, Supplies and Working Arrangements: Each person employing agricultural workers must pay all wages owed when due. Farm labor contractors, agricultural employers, and associations are prohibited from requiring workers to purchase goods or services solely from such contractor, employer or association, or any person acting as an agent for such a person.
  • Safety and Health of Housing: Each person who owns or controls housing provided to migrant agricultural workers must ensure that the facility complies with the federal and state safety and health standards covering that housing.
  • Transportation Safety: Each vehicle used to transport migrant or seasonal agricultural workers must be properly insured and operated by a properly licensed driver.
  • Employer Protections: Farm labor contractors must comply with the terms of any written agreement they make with an agricultural employer or association.
  • Enforcement: The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration enforces MSPA. During a MSPA investigation, Wage and Hour investigators may enter and inspect premises (including vehicles and housing), review and transcribe payroll and other records, and interview employers and employees.
  • For further information, go to or call 1-866-487-2365.

    —Phyllis Davis is a Career Development Specialist based in Champaign for the Illinois Employment Training Center. Reach her at 217-278-5700, ext. 237, or