If you employ or plan to employ anyone under 18, you need to be aware of how federal child labor laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) play a key part in your business success. You should also check your state's legal requirements and follow the rules offering more protection. The information we'll cover below pertains to federal law.
Work Permits and Age Certificates
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require work permits or age certificates for minors. Many states, however, do require them for workers of certain ages. The US Department of Labor (DOL) will issue age certificates if the minor employee's state does not issue them and the minor’s employer requests that they provide one.
The purpose of these certificates is to protect the employer from prosecution for employing an under-aged worker. Having an age certificate on file constitutes a good-faith effort to comply with minimum age requirements.
Unless a state requires a higher minimum wage, employees under 20 years old may be paid $4.25 for their first 90 consecutive calendar days of work.
Certain full-time students can be paid 85% of the minimum wage if the employer applies for a special certificate from the DOL, and allowed by state law. For additional information, employers can call the DOL at (312) 596-7195.
The FLSA requires employers to display the Minimum Wage Poster, which includes information regarding child labor.
Hours of Work
The FLSA has no restrictions on the hours of work for minors who are 16 or 17 years old.
Minors age 14 and 15 who are covered by the FLSA:
- May not work during school hours
- Can work no more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week when school is not in session
- Can work no more than 3 hours in a day or 18 hours in a week when school is in session
- Can work only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year. However, between June 1 and Labor Day, they may work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Prohibited Work for All Minors
Minors may not be employed in any of the following types of establishments or positions:
- Working in or about plants or establishments manufacturing or storing explosives
- Driving a motor vehicle or riding along the outside of a vehicle, with limited exceptions
- Coal or other mining
- Logging and sawmill operations, forest fire fighting and forest fire prevention operations, and timber tract and forestry service occupations
- Work involving exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiations
- Wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations
- *Slaughtering or meat packing, processing, or rendering
- Manufacturing brick, tile, or similar products
- *Operating most heavy machinery and power tools
- *Roofing operations and work on or about a roof
- *Excavation operations
- *In these occupations, a minor who is 16 or 17 may be employed as an apprentice or student learner.
An apprentice is defined as someone who is employed in a recognized apprenticeable trade; whose work is incidental to training; whose work is intermittent, short, and under close journeyman supervision; and whose work is registered or executed under a written agreement about work standards.
A student learner is defined as someone who is enrolled in an authorized cooperative vocational training program with a written agreement; whose work is incidental to training; whose work is intermittent, short, and under close supervision; who receives safety instructions from a school and employer; and who follows a schedule of organized and progressive work.
Allowed Work for Minors Age 14 or 15
Only the following occupations are allowed for minors who are 14 or 15 years old.
- Retail occupations
- Office or clerical work
- Intellectual or creative work, such as computer programming, teaching, tutoring, singing, acting, or playing an instrument
- Errands or delivery work by foot, bicycle, or public transportation
- Clean-up and yard work that does not including using power-driven mowers, cutters, trimmers, edgers, or similar equipment.
- Work involving cars or trucks, such as dispensing gasoline or oil or washing or hand polishing
- Certain kitchen and food service work, including reheating food, washing dishes, cleaning equipment, and limited cooking
- Cleaning vegetables and fruits, wrapping, sealing, and labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking items when performed outside a freezer or meat cooler
- Loading or unloading objects for use at a worksite, including rakes, handheld clippers, and shovels
- Certain tasks in sawmills and woodshops if the minor meets specific requirements
- 15 year olds can work as a lifeguard if they meet specific requirements
If an occupation is not specifically listed as permitted, then it is prohibited.
Prohibited Work for Minors Age 14 or 15
Federal law also lists activities that are specifically prohibited for minors who are 14 or 15 years old. Minors may not work in the following establishments or positions, even if they appear to be included in the Allowed Work list above.
- Baking and cooking, with some exceptions
- Manufacturing or processing
- Warehousing or storage
- Boiler or engine rooms, including maintaining or repairing the establishment, machines, or equipment
- Riding on a motor vehicle
- Outside window washing from window sills
- Using ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes
- In freezers or meat coolers
- Preparing meat for sale, including catching or cooping poultry
- Youth peddling and related activities
- Loading or unloading goods or property on or from a motor vehicle, railroad car, or conveyor
- Public messenger service
- Transporting people or property
- Communications and public utilities
- Construction, including repair, except for office or sales work
- Any job prohibited for all minors
Minors Under 14
Minors under 14 are not allowed to work, with limited exceptions, such as acting or performing, delivering newspapers, or working in agriculture.