Understanding Federal Teen Labor Laws

Written by on December 21, 2012 in Career - No comments | Print this page

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teen-labor-lawsTeenagers are not quite kids – not quite adults. That means that they may be trying out some adult responsibilities for the first time, except with some special considerations. Teen employment is such a circumstance in which the rules are a little different than they are for adults, and the government is pretty strict about regulating those rules. Here is a guide to understanding federal teen labor laws:

Teen wages. Federal law requires that hourly teen employees are paid at least minimum wage. This applies to both tipped and non-tipped employees. In the case of tipped employees whose total wages do not equate to the federal minimum wage, the employer must provide additional compensation.

Minimum working ages. Those teenagers 14 years and older may work in only specified occupations, and only during off-school hours; additionally, work hours are limited to a certain amount per day and week. Teenagers 16 years and older may work an unlimited number of hours in any occupation that is not deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor, any time of the day or week.

Hazardous occupations. The federal government is very specific when it comes to hazardous occupations, and teen labor laws very strictly regulate teen employment in these fields (with different regulations for the 14-15 and 16+ sectors). Examples of hazardous occupations include mining, manufacturing, meat processing, boiler/engine repair, loading, peddling, and more.


Child labor law exemptions. There are cases in which teens may be exempt from the standard provisions listed above. For example, teens who are employed by their parents, who are working intern/externships, who are employed as actors (or other types of performer), or who are employed as newspaper delivery persons might start working at a younger age or receive alternate forms of compensation.

What federal law does NOT cover. As you can see, federal child labor laws cover an array of issues stemming from the employment of non-adult laborers. However, it is important to note that the federal government does not regulate certain things that individual state laws might. For example, federal law does not require that minors obtain work permits to be able to work, nor does it limit the number of hours those teens 16 years and older may work; however, your state may have completely different requirements. When it comes to teen labor, it is always a good idea to check into state as well as federal regulations.

As you can see, there are many special considerations to be made when it comes to teen employment. Keep these federal teen labor law basics in mind when sizing up employment opportunities for your teen.

This is a guest post.  Hue Apt started working at the age of 14 and worked his way up, learning about computers and repairs. He is now using a healthcare it staffing firm to find work in the medical field.

Image courtesy of savit keawtavee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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