Labor Laws for Child Actors
Child actors -- including all minors under the age of 18 -- are in a unique field that provides many opportunities, which can be financially rewarding. While they are working in this field, they must have safe working conditions and still receive an education. Labor laws have been enacted to ensure these child actors are not exploited. According to the BizParentz Foundation, since 1938, child actors have been exempt from federal labor laws. This means it's up to each state to implement labor laws that protect the welfare of children in the performance industry.
Before child actors are allowed to accept a professional role, they must have valid work permits and a Social Security number. Each state has its own work permit requirements. California has its own Entertainment Work Permit Department, which is part of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The work permits are typically granted for six-month time periods.
The Coogan Law was enacted to protect the earnings of child actors. The Coogan Law was named after child actor Jackie Coogan, who had a successful career in the 1920s. The law at that time viewed Coogan's earnings as belonging to his parents. When he became an adult, he found he had no access to any of his earnings. The Coogan Law was put in place to protect and prevent child actors from facing the same situation. The law, revised in 2000, states that all of a child actor's earnings belong to the child. Any parent or guardian is legally responsible to protect the child actor's earnings until he becomes an adult. A trust fund also must be established to hold 15 percent of the child's earnings.
State compulsory education laws mandate that a child actor's education should not be interrupted. However, each state has its own education requirements for the education that child actors must receive. Child actors have the option of enrolling in a public or private school. But these children may be removed from school to be on set for the remainder of the day. During the time on set, parents often hire private tutors to continue the child's education. The tutors work with the child's schedule so he does not fall behind in his school work. Another option is homeschooling. The homeschooling curriculum is designed by parents specifically to meet the child actor's needs. Homeschooling is flexible so the child can bring his school work with him wherever he works.
Each state designates its own labor laws for how many hours a child actor can work. In New Jersey, child actors can be on the set eight hours per day; however, they only can work five of those hours; the remaining hours must be spent resting, having meals and getting their education. If the child attends regular school during the day, he only can work three hours after the school day ends.