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Ask the Hotline | Beware Child Labor Laws When Hiring Summer Help

July 1, 2019
Q. We are thinking about hiring some teenagers this summer and want to comply with child-labor laws. Do you have a summary?
A. Some employers, especially those facing a tight labor market, may consider hiring people under the age of 18 for the summer. Hiring teenagers is frequently in the news as public officials encourage employers to give teenagers an opportunity to begin to work. 
Employers thinking about hiring children between the ages of 14 and 17, should be aware that state and federal laws set out a number of explicit provisions regarding the hours children may work, even in the summer, and the positions and duties they may hold. Be aware also that the law groups children by ages, 14-15 and 16-17, and recognizes that children in the older group are eligible to perform more complex workplace duties.  
With few exceptions, minors must be at least 14 years of age to work. The exceptions include babysitting, news carriers, farm workers, and workers in the entertainment business (with a special state issued permit).
Minors 14 or 15 years of age may not be employed:
  • during school hours except as provided in approved work experience and career exploration programs;
  • between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. except from July 1 through Labor Day, when they may work until 9 p.m.;
  • more than three hours per day during school weeks, not more than eight hours per day during weeks when school is not in session;
  • more than 18 hours per school week except in approved work experience and career exploration programs, in which case, they may work 23 hours;
  • more than 40 hours per week when school is not in session;
  • more than six days per week.
Minors 16 and 17 years of age may not be employed:
  • between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. with exceptions - when an establishment stops serving customers at 10:00 p.m., the minor may work until 10:15 p.m.; on nights not preceding a regularly scheduled school day they may work until 11:30 p.m.; in restaurants and racetracks, they may work until 12 a.m. on nights not preceding a regularly scheduled school day;
  • more than nine hours per day;
  • more than 48 hours in a week; or
  • more than six days per week.
After 8 p.m., minors must be directly supervised by an adult who is located in the workplace and who is reasonably accessible, unless the minor works at a kiosk, cart, or stand in the common area of an enclosed shopping mall that has security from 8 p.m. until the mall is closed to the public.
The Massachusetts state Web site lists job restrictions for minors between 14 and 17 years of age. 
Applying for an Employment Permit
All minors under the age of 18 seeking work must complete an employment permit application and obtain the permit before starting a new job.  Applications for permits are available at the state Web site.  
For minors who are residents of Massachusetts, permits are issued by the superintendent of schools for the municipality in which the minor lives or attends school.  For minors who reside outside the commonwealth, the permit is issued by the superintendent for the municipality where the minor’s job will be located.
No permit may be granted unless there is a specific employer, work address, and job description. 
The employer must keep the original permit on file at the place of employment as long as the minor is employed at that location or until the minor reaches 18. If the minor's employment is terminated, voluntarily or otherwise, the employer must return the permit to the superintendent's office within two days of the termination. 
Permits are valid as long as the minor holds the job or until he/she reaches the age of 18. After that, the minor no longer needs documentation and the permit and copies may be destroyed.
Even if you hire high-school graduates, remember that some of them may be still under 18 and still be subject to the child labor laws. The law states clearly that minors who are no longer students are covered by the child labor laws in the same way that students of the same age are covered until the age of 18.
Minors may not transfer a permit given for one job to another job.  The process must begin again, even if the employer is the same but the work location has changed. An employer who wishes to employ a minor at more than one location must keep a permit on file at each business location. A minor does not need to apply for a new employment permit at the beginning of the school year if they have the same job. 
Final thoughts
Any employer looking to hire a teenager subject to the child-labor laws should be familiar with the working-hours restrictions and permitted jobs. You should also allow enough time to obtain the proper documentation and make sure that you require and retain the proper documents. The child-labor laws are enforced by the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division and there are significant fines for violations. 
AIM members with questions about this or any other HR-related issue may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.
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