By Jim Clark, PhD – Director of Student Sidelines LLC © 2019
The business of employing minors, meaning anyone under the age of 18, is regulated under federal and state laws. There are strict limitations for businesses regarding the number of hours and type of work allowed to be performed by minors. For example, many states require that businesses apply for annual Employment Certificates in order to hire minors. In general, minors are protected by the same labor laws that apply to adults, such as being paid at least minimum wage.
In general, a minor must be at least 14 years old to work at a business for pay. Employers must verify the age of every person hired. The certificate covers all minors employed, even in multiple locations. The employer estimates the number of minors to be employed during the year, lists their job duties, and identifies equipment or machinery they will use.
State laws vary on how many hours a minor may work each week, as well as what time of day they are permitted to work. For example, a state may prohibit 14- and 15-year-olds from working during school hours, nor to work more than three hours on a school day, and not to work more than eight hours on non-school days. Also, states may require that 14- and 15-year-olds work between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. (and as late as 9:00 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day). Some states prohibit children under the age of 16 from working with certain machinery. This even includes children of family-run business owners.
In general, before hiring anyone under the age of 18, check your local and federal labor laws. Most state child labor laws do not cover children doing activities performing domestic work, including activities like lawn-mowing, baby-sitting, or delivering newspapers. There are lots of ways activities minors can do for private citizens, for whatever pay is agreed upon and approved by parents, that are not covered by child labor laws.