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Ask the Hotline | Observe Child-Labor Laws

October 3, 2017
We are looking to hire some high-school students to supplement our work force this Christmas season. We haven’t hired students previously and I need to know the child labor laws to make sure we comply. Any information would be helpful.    
While many employers hire high schoolers during the summer, state and federal child labor-laws allow employers to hire them all year, though the restrictions are more pronounced due to school schedules. Any employer thinking about hiring children between the ages of 14 and 17 must be sure to follow the stricter standard. Both federal and state law provide for fines for violations of the law. 
Massachusetts has developed a chart that presents the child-labor limitations by occupation and requirements. 
Remember that the law categorizes children by ages 14-15 and 16-17 and recognizes that children in the older group are eligible to perform more complex/responsible workplace duties.  
Age Requirements
With few exceptions, minors must be at least 14 to work. The exceptions include babysitting, news carriers, work on farms, and in entertainment (with a special state issued permit).
Fourteen and 15-year-old minors 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.
Sixteen and 17-year-old minors may NOT be employed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. with exceptions: 
  • When an establishment stops serving customers at 10 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 race tracks, they may work until 12 a.m. on nights not preceding a regularly scheduled school day.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds may also not work:
  • more than 9 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.
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 from the commonwealth. 
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 – either is acceptable.  
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. 
Employer’s Responsibility
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.
Remember that even if you hire only high-school graduates, some of those people may be still under 18 and subject to the child labor laws. The law states clearly that minors who are no longer students are still covered by the child labor laws in the same way that active 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. However, a minor does not have to apply for a new employment permit at the beginning of the school year if they have the same job. 
Please contact the AIM Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277 if you have questions about this or any other HR-related issue. 
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