Many state and local organizational USSF members regularly assign young referees to lower level recreational games. USSF has recently received inquiries from several organizations regarding how laws governing child labor impact this practice.
Summary of the Law
The Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), a federal wage and hour statute, prohibits the employment of children under 14 years of age. The statute provides a few very narrow exceptions to this rule, but none apply to the assignment of child referees. The penalties for violation of these provisions include fines of up to $10,000 for each child employed in violation of the statute. Many states also have laws that mirror the FLSA in this respect.
The FLSA only applies if the employees engage in interstate commerce, (i.e., business between states) or if the organization hiring the referees is an "enterprise engaged in interstate commerce." Several organizations may together be considered one enterprise if (1) their activities are related; (2) their operations are unified or under common control; and (3) they have a common business purpose. Typically, there is a very low threshold for establishing the interstate commerce requirement.
Implications of the FLSA and other state laws vary depending upon the state and the circumstances in each case. Accordingly, you should consult legal counsel in your location to determine the impact of the FLSA and state law upon your organization's specific practices.