September marks "back to school" time for many youths, some of whom may be on your payroll. Youth employment is heavily regulated by federal and state law, including restrictions on work hours during the school year, and employers may be subject to significant penalties for violating the rules. Need a quick lesson? The following Q&As can help get you started with federal law:


1. What is the minimum age for work?

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets 14 as the minimum age for most non-agricultural work. However, at any age, youth may:


  • Deliver newspapers;
  • Perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions;
  • Work in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing or hazardous jobs); and
  • Perform babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home.


Many states have enacted child labor laws, some of which may have a minimum age for employment which is higher than the FLSA. Where both the FLSA and state child labor laws apply, the higher minimum standard must be obeyed.


2. What hours can youth work?

Under the FLSA, hours worked by 14 and 15-year-olds are limited to:Child Labor


  • Non-school hours;
  • 3 hours in a school day;
  • 18 hours in a school week;
  • 8 hours on a non-school day;
  • 40 hours on a non-school week; and
  • The hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.)


The FLSA does not limit the number of hours or times of day for workers 16 years and older.


Many states have enacted child labor laws as well. In situations where both the FLSA child labor provisions and state child labor laws apply, the higher minimum standard must be obeyed.


3. Must young workers be paid the minimum wage?

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. However, a youth minimum wage of $4.25 per hour applies to employees under the age of 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer. After 90 days, the FLSA requires employers to pay the full federal minimum wage.


All employers covered by the FLSA may pay eligible employees the youth minimum wage, unless prohibited by state or local law. Where a state or local law requires payment of a minimum wage higher than $4.25 an hour and makes no exception for employees under age 20, the higher state or local minimum wage standard would apply.


4. Do young workers need a work permit?

The FLSA does not require that youth get work permits or working papers to get a job. Some states do require work permits prior to getting a job. School counselors may be able to advise if a work permit is needed before getting a job.


5. What kinds of work can youth perform?

In non-agricultural work, the permissible jobs, by age, are as follows:


  • Workers 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not;
  • Workers 16 and 17 years old may perform any jobs not deemed hazardous; and
  • Workers 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in certain specified jobs.


You can check your compliance with key federal youth employment standards using the interactive Child Labor Rules Advisor available online from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Be Sure to Comply with State Youth Employment Standards

All states have child labor rules, mandatory school attendance laws, and determine the minimum age at which youth may operate motor vehicles. Additionally, many states have their own laws and regulations regarding:


  • Age certificates;
  • Work hours;
  • Rest periods; and
  • Meal periods.


When state and federal child labor rules are different, the rule that provides the most protection to the youth is the one that must be followed. You may find out about the child labor laws in your state by clicking here.


For More Information

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor's employer resource page for additional information on federal youth employment standards. To learn more about state-specific child labor laws that may affect your business, click here. Additionally, many states have separate recordkeeping requirements for companies employing workers younger than 18, so be sure to visit our State Laws section to learn more about these requirements.


And don't forget to download our free Federal Labor Laws by Company Size Chart, which gives you an easy-to-understand breakdown of important workplace laws that may affect your company!


Image Credit: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)


Topics: Human Resources, Employee Health and Wellness, State Employment Laws

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