Both federal and state governments have laws governing the employment of minors. Child labor laws cover a wide range of industries and, depending on the state, a broad range of age groups. If an employer is considering hiring an individual under the age of 18, it is essential they confirm they are in compliance with both state and federal youth labor laws to ensure that they or the minor they seek to employ have the proper authorization to do so and are working only those hours permitted by the child labor laws. When federal and state child labor laws conflict, an employer must apply the stricter law.
In the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal government has set minimum age requirements for youth seeking to perform work and the employment limitations on individuals under the age of 18.
Children or youth under the age of 14 are generally prohibited from working unless one of a handful of exceptions apply, including:
- being employed by parents in non-hazardous occupations
- working as actors or performers
- delivering newspapers
- working as homeworkers in the making of wreaths made from natural elements
- performing certain agricultural work
Children ages 14 and 15 may work, but are limited in the hours and occupations that they work. Children ages 16 and 17 may work, but cannot be employed in industries the Department of Labor determines to be too hazardous.
For more information on federal child labor laws, visit our Fair Labor Standards Act: Child Labor Laws page.
State Child Labor Laws
State child labor laws vary from state to state. Remember some states require minors to have work permits before they can be employed. Below are the websites addressing each state’s child labor laws.