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Learn Child-Labor Laws before Hiring Teens

March 26, 2018
Spring is here and that means many employers are preparing to hire teen-agers. For any employer thinking about hiring children between the ages of 14 and 17, there are a number of things to be aware of as you move forward with your plans.   
State and federal law define explicit provisions regarding the hours children may work and the positions and duties they may take on. The law categorizes children by ages 14-15 and 16-17 and recognizes that minors in the older group are eligible to perform more complex and responsible workplace duties.  With very few exceptions, employers are not able to hire children under the age of 14. 
One final factor to remember is that in the case of 14 and 15-year-old children, the child labor laws recognize two different working situations - during the school year and during the summer, defined as July 1 through Labor Day.  
With few exceptions, minors must be at least 14 to work. The exceptions for children under age 14 include working as a babysitter, news carrier, on farms, and in entertainment (with a special state issued permit).
Hour/Occupation Restrictions
14-15-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.
16-17-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.
  • 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.
Occupation restrictions
Massachusetts clearly defines 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. 
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. 
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.
Companies that hire high-school graduates should 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. However, a minor does not have to apply for a new employment permit at the beginning of the school year if she or he has the same job. 
The Massachusetts child labor laws are enforced by the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division
Any employer looking to hire a teen-ager subject to the child labor laws should allow enough time to obtain the proper documentation. There are significant fines for violations. 
Please contact the AIM Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277 if you have any questions about this or any other HR related matter. 
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