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A Look at Youth Employment Laws

Discover which laws apply and where to find resources and information.

This article provides general information about the application of the state and federal laws that govern the employment of youth. Please remember that this information is not legal advice; if you have questions or need guidance, consult with your district’s general counsel on these issues.

Also, CSD Pool provides HR Helpline as a member service, which allows members to speak with an attorney who practices employment law in Colorado.

State and federal child labor laws govern how old a person must be to be employed, what work duties can be assigned to youth employees, and other restrictions or guidance on the employment of children.

On the federal level, child labor laws are governed by the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. State laws, found in Colorado’s Youth Opportunity Act, also apply and are enforced by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).

Special districts meet the definition of “covered enterprises” to which federal and state laws apply.

A frequent question about youth employment is: do federal or state laws apply? Must special districts follow both state and federal law, and which provisions govern when there is a conflict?

The short answer is, yes: both federal and state laws on youth employment apply to special districts, whichever is most strict.

For additional background, see the U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #14 (Coverage under the FLSA) and Fact Sheet #7 (State and Local Governments under the FLSA).

Is there a tool to determine whether a federal or state youth employment law applies?

CDLE has a helpful overview of the state and federal youth employment laws, with a side-by-side comparison. When a special district is considering youth employment, this side-by-side comparison is a good tool to which to refer to determine which law is more strict, and therefore, applies.

What other information or resources are available?

Once your district has determined whether federal or state laws are more strict regarding youth employment, CDLE has a helpful overview of youth employment by age types of work activities that may be assigned.

Further, the “Youth and Labor” webpage of the U.S. Department of Labor has links to a variety of resources on related topics and additional guidance documents.

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