Child Labor Laws: What Crosses the Line?


My wife and I were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant a few nights ago and they had a 10 year old girl helping out.

She wasn’t doing anything really hard. She carried the menus over while her father seated us. She helped carry the chips and salsa over, and asked us if we needed anything.

I made the comment to my wife that if the labor board showed up right now they would be dishing out a hefty fine. My wife then made a great point. Why is what the little girl doing any different from a young boy helping his dad in the garden? Especially if the dad is selling the food from the garden. More examples are a little girl helping her mom make cakes or cupcakes for a bake sale, a young teenager babysitting or mowing lawns. Each of those tasks involve a minor under the age of 16 without a work permit performing a service for the exchange of money.

The little girl at the Mexican restaurant was getting to spend time with her dad, learning what adults have to do to earn a living, and having fun! Was there any harm in what she was doing? In my opinion, no. Now if she was taking orders, serving guests alone, cooking, or washing dishes, it would be a different story.

So what crosses the line? What is ok for a child to do before it becomes a violation of child labor laws? Does it matter if it is in a business vs private property?

Comments are welcomed!

Tim Martin is a Technology specialist, who gives us insights into the technology and software that helps us to get through our day. Technology is everywhere, an increasingly pervasive part of our lives. Tim helps us make sense of it in many ways.