Home School Legal Defense Association has received an increasing number of calls concerning work permits and laws regulating employment of minors. The biggest obstacle to a home schooler's employment under the current labor law is that he or she may only work "outside school hours" when school is "in session." These terms are defined according to the particular public school in the employee's school district. A home schooler, therefore, who may be finished with school at noon, cannot begin his day's employment until the public school adjourns for the day, i.e. 3 p.m. The absurdity of the application of public school days and times to home schoolers is obvious.
The Federal Department of Labor (DOL) recently requested public comment on regulations on the employment of 14 and 15 year olds. We seized this opportunity to persuade DOL to revise these regulations to achieve the following:
Our comment to DOL responded to specific inquiries made by their department. The following is an excerpt from the HSLDA comment:
- Expand the hours in which all 14 and 15 year olds can be employed.
- Expand the hours in which home-schooled students, because of their unique circumstances, can be employed.
- Develop definitions of "school hours" and "in session" that fairly treat all students.
I. Currently, end-of-day restrictions are 7 p.m. on in session days and 9 p.m. in the summer. Should there be different end-of-day restrictions on days preceding a non-school day (i.e. Friday and Saturday)? Should there be different end-of-day restrictions when school is not in session?
Answer: Yes. End-of-day restrictions are presumably to protect the student's time to complete his school homework assignments. If there is no class on the following day for which to prepare and no assignment due, then the justification for the restriction does not exist on days preceding non-school days. End of day restrictions are also, presumably, designed to ensure the student will get adequate rest for the next day's school work. This justification for the end-of-day restrictions also fails when the following day is a non-school day.
II. Currently, 14/15 year olds may work three (3) hours on in-school session days and eight (8) hours when school is not in session. Should a distinction be made in the number of hours that may be worked on a day preceding a non-school day (i.e. Friday, Saturday, and the day before a holiday)?
Answer: Yes. As with the end-of-day restrictions, hour restrictions are presumably to provide the student sufficient time for classroom preparation, as well as for adequate rest. If there is no school on the following day, the three (3) hour limitation is unnecessary. Because the child will work and attend school in the same day, however, there should be some limitation as to time in order to guard the minor's health. By limiting the number of work hours to four (4) on a school day preceding a non-school day, the child will be protected from physical exhaustion.
A child in a home tutorial structure should be permitted to work an additional hour on in-session school days because his formal instruction time is considerably less than his conventionally-schooled peers. The greatly reduced teacher-student ratio in the home school results in far more efficient learning. In addition, the home schooler has more hours available to him for such activity as employment. To permit him to work an additional hour on school days puts no greater time or energy strain on the home schooler than is presently on the conventionally-schooled.
III. Currently, weekly hours for 14/15 year olds are limited to 18 hours a week when school is in session.
a. How many hours should be permitted for 14/15 year olds in session?
Answer: Applying the rule suggested in II above would result in a conventionally-schooled child's maximum hours per week being 25 and a home-schooled child's maximum of 29 hours. In an effort to discourage students from working seven days a week, we recommend setting a maximum number of hours for a five day school week at 21 for the conventionally-schooled and 24 for the home-schooled.
b. Should there be a distinction for those weeks when school is in session less than five (5) days?
Answer: Yes. Non-school days of a week in which there are less than five (5) school days should be treated like any other non-school day preceding a non-school day, i.e. Saturday, and the child should be permitted to work no more than five (5) hours, with a maximum work week of 30 hours. On a school day preceding a non-school day during such a week the child would be permitted to work no more than four (4) hours. This would mean that during Christmas and spring breaks, for example, the child could work as much as 30 hours per week if so desired.
IV. Should the definitions of "school hours" and "in session" be modified to accommodate different structures of schools?
Answer: Yes. The terms "school hours" and "in session" are being interpreted by the U.S. Department of Labor in a grossly unfair manner. With the great variation and experimentation with schedules in the public and private schools, as well as the highly individualized schedules of home schools, it is easy to imagine a scenario in which the public, private, and majority of home schools in a particular school district are all on a different daily, weekly, and yearly in session schedule. It is clear that tying child employment regulations to the public school is a violation of equal protection. Determination of "school hours" and "in session" must be made according to the schedule of the particular child's school. This is the only logical and lawful regulation.
DOL has given no indication as to when the child labor regulations will be revised. We are checking with their office periodically and will make available the revisions as soon as we have them. In the meantime, if you wish to obtain a copy of the complete comment provided to DOL on this subject, please call or write our office to request one.