Children in the Field

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In general, Michigan farm employers do not allow children in the fields or orchards unless they are eligible to work. Therefore, you should know your rights and your children’s rights and have a plan for who will care for your underage children while you are at work.


Discrimination because of Family Is Illegal

Generally, an employer may not refuse to hire you, end your job, or refuse to provide housing solely because you have a family or require family housing.

Age Discrimination Is Illegal in Michigan

In Michigan, employers may not fire or refuse to hire workers based on their age. Employers may not treat young workers differently either. If a child is legally old enough to perform the work (see chart below), it may be “age discrimination” for an employer to refuse to hire a young worker or to treat a young worker differently than other workers.

There are some exceptions to these rules. Workers who believe that they have suffered discrimination should call Farmworker Legal Services (FLS) at 1-800-968-4046 or the Michigan Department of Civil Rights at 1‑800‑482‑3604.

Child Labor

Under federal law, minors must be at least 14 years old to do non-hazardous farm work. “Hazardous work” may only be done by hired farmworkers who are at least 16 years old. This includes work with machinery or toxic or explosive materials.

Children who are 12 to 13 years old may work in fields only with their parents or with the written consent of their parents. Normally, children under 16 cannot work during school hours.

Michigan’s “Youth Employment Standards” do not generally prohibit a minor child from doing farm work. However, state employment standards regulate the hours that minors can do work such as cleaning, sorting, or packaging fruits or vegetables. The standards also regulate the hours that minors can work detasseling, roguing, or hoeing for commercial seed operations. Contact the Michigan Department of Education for details.

Every child farmworker should receive an individual paycheck and wage statement. The employer may also need to keep other records, such as evidence verifying the child’s age or parent’s written consent.

For questions about a minor child’s farm employment, consult the U.S. Department of Labor or the Michigan Department of Education at 1-517-335-6041, or call FLS at 1-800-968-4046.

This information was provided by Farmworker Legal Services (FLS). FLS is a legal aid office with lawyers and other legal staff who provide free legal assistance and referrals to migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout Michigan.