Employment of Minors in Virginia Agriculture
Farm Business Management Update, June 1999
By Bill Whittle of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
Summer is the time of year when many minors (children under the age of 18) enter the work force and find employment on farms. Because farming deals with so many potentially hazardous jobs, regulations have been developed that govern what a minor can and cannot do on a farm and under what circumstances the restrictions are waived. Hazardous jobs that restrict what minors can and cannot do but under specific circumstances exemption can be obtained are listed in Table 1. Hazardous jobs that have no exemptions are listed in Table 2.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry and the U. S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division covers the regulations involving the employment of minors in Agriculture. Virginia's regulations became more stringent than the Federal standards in July 1994; therefore, the Commonwealth's requirements take precedent. These regulations are designed to protect minors and keep them from working in hazardous jobs on the farm.
The statutes exempt children of any age from the hazardous occupation regulation if they are employed on a farm owned or operated by their parents or guardian. This exemption does not include the niece or nephew visiting the farm even if they have the permission of the parents to work in the hazardous occupations. Also, as the employer you cannot allow a minor to do hazardous activities for "fun," i.e. no pay.
The regulations for minors employed in agriculture specifically address the following age categories: 13 and under, 14 and 15, over 16. Employment certificates issued by the school system are not required for agriculture work. (Employment certificates issued by the local school division superintendent are required for any minor employed in non-agricultural work.)
Minors 16 and over - Age 16 is the Basic Minimum Age of Employment according to Virginia statutes. No specific agricultural hazardous job restrictions for minors over age 16 exist. However, a substantial list of restricted hazardous activities for any type employment for minors under the age of 18 do exist. These activities include excavation, demolition, roofing, and driving a commercial vehicle of more than two axles.
Minors under age 13 can be employed in agriculture if they are not employed in hazardous occupations. No exceptions or exemptions for hazardous jobs are granted for children under 13.
Minors 14 and 15 can be employed in agriculture if they are not employed in hazardous occupations. A minor, age 14 and 15, can perform certain jobs that are considered hazardous provided they participate in an approved program that qualifies them for an exemption.
The Code of Virginia provides two ways for minors age 14 and 15 to become eligible to work in certain hazardous activities. The minor must fall in one or the other category if he is to be allowed to do the hazardous work.
Exemptions for Hazardous Occupations for Minors age 14 and 15
Record keeping is an absolute necessity for the farmer-employer if he employs minors under 16. The following records must be kept for three years if a farmer employs a minor on days school is in session or on any day the minor is employed in a hazardous occupation:
Though not required it would be prudent to maintain for each minor the following information:
A complete description of the Virginia regulations can be found in the bulletin, "Virginia Regulation Governing the Employment of Minors on Farms, in Gardens and in Orchards," Promulgated by the Commissioner, Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Effective Date, July 13, 1994.
Table 1: Hazardous Occupations
Table 2: Hazardous Occupations -- No Exemption
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