Hours Teens Are Legally Allowed to Work

Legal Work Hours - Ages 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

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How young is too young for a part-time job? What hours are teenagers allowed to work? A lot depends on the teenager in question, their parents' feelings about teenagers having jobs, and school and after-school commitments. However, even the most responsible and multitasking teenager, with willing parents and enough free time to devote to a part-time job, will run up against one limitation to their employment: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Hours Teens Are Legally Allowed to Work

According to the FLSA, the minimum age to work in non-agricultural employment is 14. The act places other restrictions on employment for minor workers, as well, depending on their age, the time of year, and the day of the week (i.e., school day or non-school day).

Restrictions for Employment of Minors:

The FLSA sets the minimum working age at 14 for non-agricultural jobs and prohibits workers aged 14 to 18 from working in occupations that are deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor, including mining, excavation, manufacturing explosives, and using some power-driven equipment. Minors can occasionally work at work sites in hazardous industries, but only in limited tasks that have been declared safe.

State labor laws often differ from federal laws; when they do, the law that is "more protective of the minor" applies.

Workers under the age of 18 cannot work more than 16 hours per week.

Exceptions to Age-Based Restrictions:

Generally speaking, age-based work restrictions don't apply to minor workers who are employed by their parents or guardians. The exception to the exception? Those hazardous industries listed above. Employees under the age of 18 cannot work in mining or manufacturing, for example, even if they would be employed by their family.

Employment Restrictions by Age:

Under Age 14:
Children age 13 or under cannot work at a non-agricultural job unless employed by their parents in a non-hazardous industry.

Hours 14- and 15-Year-Olds Can Work Are Limited To:

  •     Hours when teen isn't in school
  •    3 hours on a school day
  •     18 hours total during a school week
  •      8 hours on a non-school day
  •     40 hours total during a non-school week
  •      Hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. from Labor Day to May 31
  •     Hours between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day

Hours ages 16 and 17 Can Work:

There is no limit on hours, but, if you're under 18 you can't work in a job that the Labor Department considers hazardous, as mentioned above.

Over Age 18:
There are no limits on the hours you can work if you are over 18.

How Much Should Teens Be Paid?

Generally, teenagers who work should be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Workers under the age of 20 can be paid a youth minimum wage of $4.25 for the first 90 consecutive calendar days; this youth minimum wage applies to every job the teen holds, not just their first job. If a worker under the age of 20 changes jobs, their new employer may pay them the lower rate for the first 90 days of their new job.

Many states and some cities have set minimum wages higher than the federally mandated minimum, but these don't necessarily apply to younger workers. Recently, a few states have proposed minimum wage exceptions for teenagers, partly in response to these minimum wage increases.

"I don't think voters approved an increase thinking in terms of a first job for high school students," Nebraska state Sen. Laura Ebke told The International Business Times. "It really refers more to the working poor, people who can't make ends meet."

Whether you agree or disagree, it's in your best interests to familiarize yourself with both state and federal laws applying to young workers in your area before applying for a job or allowing your teenager to do so. In most cases, employers will have to abide by both state and federal law.