Kid law, part nine: Truancy and work laws |

Kid law, part nine: Truancy and work laws

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

The first eight parts of this series have looked at a myriad of legal matters directly affecting kids, their parents and those with whom they interact. In this, the final column of the series, we will consider truancy, kids and work, and will try to summarize what is unique about kids in the eyes of the law.

While it has a Huck Finn/Tom Sawyerish harmless sound to it, truancy is a serious matter. In most states, children between the ages of 6 and 18 (with exceptions for such things as extreme disability or mental incapacity) are required to attend school.

Generally, those who miss a specified number of school days without a valid excuse are considered truants. Valid excuses include illness or quarantine, medical or dental appointments, court appearances, and the funeral of an immediate family member.

If a child is truant, the school must notify and parents. If the parents do not compel a child’s attendance, they could be subject to prosecution. If there is continued or habitual truancy, the child’s driving privileges may be suspended or delayed and the child could be considered a habitual truant in which case either social services and/or the juvenile courts may become involved. In extreme cases, a habitual truant may be made a ward of the court. In the worst case, the court may order the incarceration of a habitual truant who simply refuses to attend school. Further, a parent who has flaunted the court’s orders could, conceivably, be charged with neglect and/or contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Laws regarding kids and work are generally divided into two categories: how and when a child is permitted to work and laws which regulate children at work.

Generally younger workers ” commonly, 14- and 15-year-olds ” may work only a certain number of hours per day on school days (generally three hours) and no more than a certain combined number of hours in a school week (18 hours per week is common). They may generally work no more than eight hours on a non-school day and not more than 40 hours in a non-school week. Generally, a 14- or 15-year-old worker may work more hours if required by family need, for example where a parent is incapacitated and unable to work.

Older child workers ” generally 16- to 18-year-olds ” can obtain full time work permits.

Some businesses are exempt from age restrictions in the child labor laws. Among these are television, movie and theatrical productions and modeling. In this and a handful of other occupations, a child may be employed regardless of age.

Labor laws affecting children while at work include those that regulate employment practices and the type of work a child may perform. Such laws outlaw dangerous employment or jobs in which in child may be subject to exploitation.

Both state and federal laws establish minimum pay rates and overtime wages. By law, non-exempt employees must be paid at least one-and-a-half times their hourly wage for work in excess of 8 hours in one day or 40 hours in one week. In some instances, however, an employer pay a lower wage to a minor or trainee.

Just as older workers must file state and federal income tax returns, so must younger workers. If a minor child’s income tax is not paid, the IRS may look to the parents for payment of the tax. A child may be considered a dependent of the parents up to the age of 24, provided the child is a full-time student. In some circumstances, if a child is under 18 years old, he or she will not be required to file a return if a parent elects to include that child’s unearned income on their own return.

In summary, this series has looked at the legal definitions of what constitutes a minor and has outlined many of the distinctions between adults and children. We have looked at legal issues specific to children and to the exploitation of children. While different than adults in many significant respects, minors are still subject to the same laws and, in addition, are subject to many laws from which adults are excluded. To review any of the prior columns, you may to go to, under “Services,” pick “Archives,” search “Columnists” for “Robbins,” which may provide some guidance and assistance.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. Robbins lectures for Continuing Legal Education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” He may be reached at 926-4461 or at his e-mail address:

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