One of the things I love to do is play golf. It’s mentally challenging, (somewhat) physically demanding, and you always strive for perfection.

That said, one of the things that I’m not very good at is golf itself.  Sure, I’m better than some but as someone once joked to me:  You can be good golfer or a good lawyer, but it’s hard to be both.   I like to think that sometimes when I hit bad golf shots — maybe I’m a better lawyer because of it?

Anyways, when I was recently playing a round of golf, it reminded me of a unique child labor law that we have in Connecticut that is right on point. So, with that, it’s time for the next installment of the Employment Law Checklist Project. 

There are many child labor laws but I’m going to focus on just one part — Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-23(b)(1).  Paragraph (a) says that kids under the age of 16 can’t be employed in certain industries except that those under 16 can be employed in some summer recreational activities and work-study programs (and other sections allow for other work too). But for golf courses, paragraph (b) comes into play (as edited to just focus on golf courses):

What Does the Law Say? It states:

Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, a minor who has reached the age of fourteen may be employed or permitted to work as a caddie or in a pro shop at any municipal or private golf course… provided such employment is (A) limited to periods of school vacation during which school is not in session for five consecutive days or more …; (B) for not more than forty hours in any week; (C) for not more than eight hours in any day; and (D) between the hours of seven o’clock in the morning and seven o’clock in the evening, except that from July first to the first Monday in September in any year, any such minor may be employed until nine o’clock in the evening. (2) (A) Each person who employs a fourteen-year-old minor as a caddie or in a pro shop at any municipal or private golf course pursuant to this section shall obtain a certificate stating that such minor is fourteen years of age or older, as provided in section 10-193…. Such certificate shall be kept on file at the place of employment and shall be available at all times during business hours to the inspectors of the Labor Department.

Scope: Here, this statute applies to municipal and private golf courses.

What’s Prohibited or Required? Golf courses cannot employ kids under the age of 14 to work as a caddie or in the pro shop.  Even if they are 14 or 15 years old, caddies and pro shop employees are limited in the hours that they can work and when.  It has to be during school vacations, not more than 40 hours in a week and no more than 8 hours in a day.  Again, the CTDOL has a good summary here.  For this position, working papers are required.

Are There Any Exceptions? At first, it seems to be a straightforward provision. BUT… one thing left unanswered by this statute is whether those under 14 years old can be “independent contractors” and performing caddie duties directly for individuals playing the golf course.  Indeed, in 2006 when revisions to this law came out, the OLR Bill Analysis noted the following: “It is unclear under the bill, (1) whether the caddie would be the employee of the golf course or, as is common, would work on a day basis, with no formal employment relationship, for individuals playing golf, and (2) who would be the employer responsible for obtaining and keeping the minor’s working papers. When the minor is employed in the pro shop, it is clear that he is a golf course employee; consequently the working papers would be on file with the course.”

Private Right of Action or Other Penalty Allowed? Violations of Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-23 are subject to criminal penalties under Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-15a which states, in part, “Any employer, officer, agent or other person who violates any provision of section … 31-23 … shall be guilty of a class D felony for each offense, except that such person shall be fined not less than two thousand dollars or more than five thousand dollars for each offense.  The CTDOL has a complaint form available here.

What May Be Recovered? Penalties as noted above.

Any Practical Steps Employers Can Take? Yes. Golf courses should review their caddie and pro shop employee rolls. If it hires individuals directly under the age of 16, it should ensure that working papers are obtained and that strict guidelines on their hours are set up.  For those golf courses that run caddie programs in which those caddies get “picked up” by players, they should exercise caution about the use of those under the age of 14 and should still consider implementing the rules in place as if they employed the caddies directly.

Any Other Interesting Information or Background?  Of course, now there are apps and customized solutions for everything and one such company is even trying to modernize it.  It’s an interesting concept but golf courses should beware — it’s not a substitute for legal advice.

I’ve talked about child labor laws in prior posts here and here, for example.