Is Your Business Ready to Hire Teenagers? Understand Child Labor Laws

Before hiring teenagers, it's crucial to understand the applicable child labor laws. Learn how to avoid penalties and ensure your business is prepared.



Does your company employ teenagers? These valuable work opportunities help youth develop quality work skills to help them succeed in life.

But teens have hour and job restrictions that can lead to steep child labor penalties if violated. Be sure your supervisors and managers are trained about applicable federal laws and state child labor requirements to avoid fines.

How Many Hours Can Teens Work a Week?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are federal requirements for minors regarding the number of hours they can work until age 16. Please check your local state laws for additional child labor restrictions dependent on the child's age.

Restricted work hours for youth ages 14-15 during the school year: 

  • Cannot work more than 3 hours a day or 18 hours per week 
  • Can only work between 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. 

Hour restrictions are to protect children and place emphasis on school attendance when school is in session. If these younger workers are home-schooled, a “school week” is based on the public school schedule where they live.

Restricted work hours for youth ages 14-15 during the summer (June 1 through Labor Day):

  • Cannot work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week
  • Can only work between 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Restricted work hours for youth ages 16-17 during school or summer:

  • There are no federal hour restrictions for youth ages 16-17 years old, although your state child labor laws may differ. Youth workers at least 16 years old in nonagricultural occupations can work any job not declared hazardous, as long as there are no state hour restrictions for how early or late they may work. 

Restricted work hours for youth ages 18+:

  • There are no federal hour restrictions for anyone age 18 and older. As a legal adult, anyone age 18+ can work in any industry, regardless of hazard.

Some states have more restrictions for teen workers. The law with the most protection to the employee should be the one adhered to. See a breakdown of state child labor standards here.

What Jobs Can Teens Legally Perform?

Allowable Jobs for Youth Under 14 Years Old

Per the FLSA, most non-agricultural employment requires a teen to be at least 14 years old. Youth under the age of 14 are extremely limited in jobs they can do if they are not working for a company owned by a parent, such as delivering newspapers, babysitting, casual labor like raking leaves, or acting.

Allowable Jobs for Youth Ages 14-15 Years Old

Teenagers that are 14 and 15 years old can do a variety of non-manufacturing and non-hazardous jobs, including:

  • Retail (cashiering, selling, price marking, packing, shelving)
  • Intellectual or creative work (computer programming, teaching, tutoring, or music-related)
  • Errands or delivery by foot, bike, or public transportation
  • Clean-up and yard work (excluding power-driven equipment like mowers and trimmers)
  • Some automobile work like dispensing oil or gasoline, car washing, and hand polishing
  • Limited food services (reheating food, washing dishes, cleaning, some cooking)
  • Cleaning produce, wrapping, sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking items not in the freezer or meat cooler
  • Loading/unloading equipment like rakes, clippers, and shovels
  • Limited tasks in sawmills and woodshops 

After meeting specific requirements, 15-year-olds can also work as lifeguards. See the Department of Labor for more details about what 14- and 15-year-olds can do.

Allowable Jobs for Youth Ages 16-17 Years Old

  • Both 16- and 17-year-olds can work in any job that has not been declared hazardous.
  • 17-year-olds may drive cars and small trucks for work under these limited circumstances.

Allowable Jobs for Youth Ages 18+

  • There are no federal hour restrictions for anyone age 18 and older. As a legal adult, anyone age 18+ can work in any industry, regardless of hazard.

Are Minors Eligible for Paid Sick Leave?

Yes, teens who work in states with paid sick leave laws qualify for the same benefits as adult employees for earning and taking paid sick leave.

Stratus HR Helps with Child Labor Compliance

Our Stratus HR team of certified HR experts can help answer your questions and provide guidance for your specific scenario. We help clients in every state comply with federal regulations and state laws, including child labor laws, overtime, minimum wage regulations, workers’ compensation requirements, records retention laws, and more.

For more information, please book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly.

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