Child Labor Law at the Federal Level

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Attempts to pass Child Labor legislation in the United States moved slowly in the first part of this century. With the American labor movement one of the staunch allies of those trying to abolish child labor, the Congress of the United States approved laws abolishing child labor. In 1918 and 1922, however, the US Supreme Court ruled the laws passed by Congress unconstitutional. The Court believed the issue should be decided by the individual states.

With enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a new law set a minimum age for general employment at sixteen, including farm work during school hours and employment in hazardous farm work at any time. For employment in hazardous nonfarm occupations, the minimum age was set at eighteen. Minors fourteen and fifteen years of age could be employed outside school hours in a variety of non-hazardous, nonmanufacturing, and nonmining jobs for limited hours and under specific conditions.

Source: American Labor, A Pictorial History of American Labor by William Cahn, Copyright 1972