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Youth Employment: Do you know the rules?

Updated: Feb 10


As summer is fast approaching, the questions regarding laws on employment of minors are increasing.

Both Federal and State laws govern the employment of young workers and when both are applicable, the law with the stricter standard must be obeyed. Employment of minors is regulated to ensure that when young people work, the work does not jeopardize their health, well being or educational opportunities. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that 160,000 American children suffer occupational injuries every year—and 54,800 of these injuries are serious enough to warrant emergency room treatment.

The Federal law divides the permissible employment for the different age groups under 18 as follows:

State laws are generally consistent with Federal law, but often impose additional requirements and restrictions that parents and employers should be aware of.

14- and 15-Year-Olds

Options for youth under the age of 14 are fairly limited, but they open up at 14, with restrictions. The Federal youth employment provisions limit the times of day, number of hours, and industries and occupations in which 14- and 15-year-olds may be employed.

Permissible hours:

  • outside school hours;

  • no more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays;

  • no more than 8 hours on a non-school day;

  • no more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session;

  • no more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session;

  • between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.—except between June 1 and Labor day when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m.

Examples of jobs they may hold:

  • They may work in most office jobs and retail and food service establishments.They may be employed in occupations such as bagging groceries, office work, stocking shelves, and cashiering.

  • They may work in intellectual or artistically creative occupations such as teacher, musician, artist, and performer.

  • They may perform limited kitchen work involving the preparation of food and beverages.

  • They may perform only limited cooking duties. They may cook over electric or gas grills that do not involve cooking over an open flame and they may cook with deep fryers that are equipped with and utilize a device that automatically lowers the baskets into the hot oil or grease and automatically raised the baskets from the hot oil or grease.

  • They may clean cooking equipment and surfaces (not otherwise prohibited), and filter, transport, and dispose of grease as long as the temperature of the surfaces, containers, and grease do not exceed 100°F.

  • Properly certified 15-year-olds may work as lifeguards and swimming instructors at traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks.

As with most rules, exceptions exist, but should be evaluated closely:

  • 15-year-olds are permitted to be lifeguards at traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks when such youth have been trained and certified by the American Red Cross, or a similar certifying organization, in aquatics and water safety. The federal child labor provisions require that a 15-year-old must acquire additional certification if he or she is to be employed as a swim instructor.

  • Certain minors between the ages of 14 and 18 inside and outside of places of businesses where machinery is used to process wood products.

  • Work Experience and Career Exploration Programs and Work-Study Programs are designed for 14- and 15-year-old youths who can benefit from a career oriented educational program designed to meet the participants' needs, interests and abilities. The program is aimed at helping youths to become reoriented and motivated toward education and to prepare them for the world of work.

Examples on jobs they may not hold:

They are prohibited from working in any of the Hazardous Orders or in most occupations involving transportation, construction, warehousing, communications and public utilities.

  • They may not work in processing, mining, in any workroom or workplace where goods are manufactured or processed, in freezers, or in meat coolers.

  • They may not operate or tend any power-driven machinery, except office machines.

  • They may not perform any baking operations.

  • They may not be employed in youth peddling, sign waving, or door-to-door sales activities.

  • They may not work from ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes.

  • They may not be employed to catch or coop poultry.

Employers should be familiar state-specific laws, as they often impose additional requirements. For example, Ohio has provisions regarding:

  • Age and schooling certificate for minor & parental permission to work;

  • Notice of nonuse of certificate, or dismissal from service, or continuation of employment after certificate is void;

  • Positions exempt from the rules;

  • Written agreement as to wages;

  • Specific record-keeping requiremetns.

If you would like further information, or have a question, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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