Teen Labor Laws

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Teen labor laws, which are actually child labor laws, are designed to protect minors from being exploited, injured or mistreated in the workplace.

These laws came about due to a surge in child labor during the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many children were injured, exploited and killed during this time period and, as a result, new laws were put into place to prevent this from happening again.

The following is an overview of child labor laws in the United States:

How Many Hours Can a Teenager Work?

According to the Department of Labor, teens between the ages of 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining and nonhazardous jobs under certain conditions. These conditions are:

They can work 3 hours on a school day
They can work up to 18 hours a week on a school week
They can work up to 8 hours on a non-school day
They can work 40 hours a week on a non-school week
They can only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when they can work until 9 p.m.

There are no schedule restrictions on teen workers who are 16 or older.

State child labor laws vary by state. Check out the Department of Labor’s page on state child labors laws regarding non-farm employment to find out more: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/nonfarm.htm

Prohibited Occupations for Minors:

The Secretary of Labor has determined that teens under the age of 18 are not allowed to do jobs that are considered hazardous. The following is a list of jobs that have been deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor:

Manufacturing and/or storing explosives
Driving a motor vehicle
Coal mining
Fighting forest fires and fire prevention
Forestry services, logging, saw mill occupations, timber tract management
Operating power driven woodworking machines
Exposure to radioactive substances
Operating power-driven hoisting apparatus
Operating power-driven metal-punching, shearing or punching machines
Operating power-driven bakery machines
Operating balers, compactors, and paper-product machines
Operating power-driven saws, shears or wood chippers
Manufacturing tile, brick, and related products
Demolition, wrecking and shipbreaking operations
Roofing operations
Excavation operations
Poultry and meat packing or processing

In addition, 14 and 15 year olds are also not allowed to work in the following occupations:

Mining, manufacturing or processing jobs
Public utility or communication jobs
Construction and repair jobs
Jobs that involve operating power-driven machinery
Operating amusement park rides
Driving motor vehicles
Door to door sales or sign waving
Poultry catching or cooping
Public messenger
Transporting people or property
Workrooms were items are mined, manufactured or processed
Warehousing and storage
Boiler or engine room work
Cooking, except for cooking that doesn’t involve open flames
Operating or working with power-drive food slicers, grinders, choppers, cutters or bakery mixers
Working with freezers or meat coolers except in limited circumstances
Loading goods off trucks, trains, conveyors except in limited circumstances
Meat processing
Outside window washing that involves working from window sills
Work that involves scaffolds, ladders and etc
Warehouse work, except for clerical or office work

How Old Do You Have To Be To Work In the United States?

According to the Fair Labor and Standards Act, the minimum age for employment in the United States is 14 years old. This is a federal law that applies in every state in the country.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For instance, in regards to agricultural employment, minors of any age may be employed by their parents at any time in any occupation on a farm owned or operated by the minor’s parent or legal guardian.

Work Permits for Minors:

The federal government does not require work permits for minors. However, many state laws do require them for workers of certain ages. The purpose of these work permits is to verify the worker’s age in order to prevent the employer from employing an under-age minor.

Check out this article by the Department of Labor to find out which states require work permits and how to get them: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/certification.htm

Teen Worker’s Rights:

As an employee, you have rights and you should know what your rights are. If you are a teen under the age of 18, there are rules and regulations regarding your employment (as mentioned previously in this article) but generally, you have the same rights as other workers. These rights are detailed in specific laws regarding employment, which include: the Fair Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, and Equal Employment Opportunity Act.

For more information about teen workers, check out our article Teen Employment: Statistics and Info.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: General: https://www.eeoc.gov/youth/downloads/general.pdf
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Your Rights: https://www.eeoc.gov/youth/rights.html
Youth Rules: Child Labor Laws in the U.S.: http://www.youthrules.gov/law-library/labor-laws-in-us/
Lexis Nexis: 13 Things Every Teen Needs to Know About Workplace Rights: https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/labor-employment/b/labor-employment-top-blogs/archive/2013/05/31/13-things-every-teen-needs-to-know-about-workplace-rights.aspx?Redirected=true
United States Department of Labor: State Labor Laws: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/state.htm
United States Department of Labor: Work Permits/Age Certificates: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/youthlabor/workpermitsagecert
United States Department of Labor: Prohibited Occupations for Non-agricultural Employees: http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/flsa/docs/haznonag.asp

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