Child Labor Laws and Regulations

teen waitress
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Child labor laws, enacted by the Federal Government, restrict when children can work and what jobs they can do. Teens hired for non-agricultural employment (which is just about everything other than farm work) must be at least fourteen.

Other child labor law restrictions, regulating the type of positions young workers can hold and the type of work they can do, are also in effect. These laws are in place to ensure that children do not do any work that's dangerous or bad for their health, and so that their focus remains on education.

 

Find out more about important child labor laws, which determine when a child can get a job, what kinds of jobs are permissible, and what paperwork is necessary. Plus, get information on where teens can get their first paid positions. 

Child Labor Law: Age Restrictions

Age plays a big role in child labor laws: while older children can work unlimited hours in jobs that are determined to be safe, younger children can only work in certain jobs, and have restricted hours. Note that some of the specifics of these rules can differ from state to state; consult your state's department of labor for more information, as well as the United States Department of Labor. 

18 Years of Age
Once a youth reaches 18 years of age, he or she is no longer subject to the federal youth employment and child labor law provisions. In terms of labor laws, an 18-year-old is considered an adult, free to work any hours and in any legal job.

 

16 and 17 Years of Age
Sixteen- and 17-year-olds may be employed for unlimited hours in any occupation other than those declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. The goal behind this restriction is to make sure that children aren't placed in any danger due to their job. Some occupations that are on the prohibited list are mining and excavation.

There can also be restrictions on the types of equipment children in this age bracket are allowed to use. For instance, in food service establishments, power-driven meat processing machines (meat slicers, saws, patty forming machines, grinders, or choppers), commercial mixers, and certain power-driven bakery machines, are all considered hazardous.

14 and 15 Years of Age
During the school year, 14- and 15-year-old children's hours are limited to 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week. On days when there's no school and in the summer, working hours increase to 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.

There are limits on when children can work, too - no later than 7 p.m. during the school year and no later than 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day. Fourteen- and 15- year-old teens may be employed in restaurants and quick-service establishments outside school hours in a variety of jobs for limited periods of time and under specified conditions.

Here's more information on the hours teens are legally allowed to work.

 

Jobs Exempt from Child Labor Law Regulations

In general, children of any age are permitted to work for businesses entirely owned by their parents, except those under 16 may not be employed in mining or manufacturing and no one under 18 may be employed in any occupation the Secretary of Labor has declared to be hazardous.

Minors employed in the delivery of newspapers to consumers are exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) child labor provisions, as well as the wage and hours provisions.

Children employed as actors or performers in motion pictures or theatrical productions, or in radio or television productions, are exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) coverage. Therefore, FLSA rules regarding total allowable number of work hours in one day and allowable times of day to work do not apply.

There are other exemptions, including making evergreen wreaths at home, so, check the DOL Exemptions from Child Labor Law Rules for the full list.

Youth Minimum Wage

The law allows employers to pay employees under 20 years of age a lower wage for a limited period (90 calendar days, not work days) after they are first employed. Any wage rate above the $4.25 minimum wage for youth an hour may be paid to eligible workers during this 90-day period.

Working Papers (Employment/Age Certificates)

In some states, workers under eighteen may need to obtain working papers (officially called Employment/Age Certificates) in order to legally be able to work.

The form may be available at at school. Otherwise, child workers can get one at the state Department of Labor. Check the Employment/Age Certification list to see which guidelines apply to you. If it's school, check with your Guidance Office. If it's the Department of Labor, check with your state office.

Tips for Finding Jobs

Are you a young person looking for a job? Here are some tips to help you get going on your job search. Then start your online job search by visiting the sites that focus on teenagers and students. Here are the best job sites for teens, plus tips for searching them.

More Resources for Teen Job Seekers

DISCLAIMER: The private web sites, and the information linked to both on and from this site, are opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only.

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