Teens In The United States: The Laws That Govern Their Employment

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It is an exciting time and a great milestone in a teenagers life when they come to you and say: “mom, dad, I want to go to work.” Truthfully, every parents reaction would be different, maybe happy, maybe scared and maybe even angered, it’s all dependent on the individual families really. But as parents, we raise our children the best way we know how. And we are always hopeful that one day our children will grow up to be a reflection of ourselves, if anything, with a great work ethic and a very successful and happy adult life.

There may be many reasons why your teen wants to work. Maybe it’s just to earn a few dollars a week for their sometimes very expensive extra curricular activities or in some families cases, to start supplying for their own needs, to help mom and dad ease the cost of their expenses. But no matter what the reason is, your teen can work if they want too. But a little advice to all parents reading this, the United States has strict labor laws governing employment of minors and it is everyone’s responsibility to know the laws before we send or bring our children into the workforce.

According to the US Department of Labor, the laws are different according to the age of your teenager, as to when, what types of jobs (hazardous or non hazardous), and how much they are able to work. If your teens are 14 or 15 years of age, they can work outside school hours, after 7 a.m. and until 7 p.m. except from June 1 through Labor Day, when they can work until 9 p.m. Also, they can work no more than 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours on a non-school day, and 40 hours in non-school week. If your teens are 16 or older, they can work  any day, any time of day, and for any number of hours. There are no restrictions on the work hours of youth age 16 or older. Again, as a reminder, teens ages 14 to 17 can only be employed in a job categorized as non hazardous by the Fair Labor Standards Act although exemptions may apply. For more information please visit their website.

Agricultural jobs, like farms, the hours restrictions are the same for all youth, migrant children as well as local resident children. Once a teenager turns 16 years old, he or she can work on any day, for any number of hours and in any job in agriculture. A teen 14 or 15 years old can work in agriculture, on any farm, but only during hours when school is not in session and only in non-hazardous jobs. If the youth is 12 or 13 years of age, he or she can only work in agriculture on a farm if a parent has given written permission, or a parent is working on the same farm. Again, the work can only be performed during hours when school is not in session and in non-hazardous jobs. If the youth is younger than 12, he or she can only work in agriculture on a farm if the farm is not required to pay the Federal minimum wage. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, “small” farms ( are exempt from the minimum wage requirements. “Small” farm means any farm that did not use more than 500 “man-days” of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter (3-month period) during the preceding calendar year. “Man-day” means any day during which an employee works at least one hour. If the farm is “small,” workers under 12 years of age can be employed in non-hazardous jobs, but only during hours when school is not in session, and only with a parent’s permission. In several states, when one has not reached the age of eighteen yet, it is required get work papers which are officially known as Certificate of Employment or Age to be allowed to work legally. If applicable, your teens schools may be good resources for one to acquire these important papers. The Department of Labor offers such service, as well. One’s state office will assist greatly if one is directed to the Department of Labor. Again, for more information please visit their website.

And finally, some words of advice for teens. Just because you are a teen with little to no work experience, it doesn’t mean you can’t land that great first job; additionally, you want to be certain to seek job’s you are interest in. Some suggest, the beach, recreational facilities, camp grounds, zoos, theme parks, restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores maybe in the mall. The important thing is that you choose a job that you enjoy and can perform in with the best of your capabilities and interests. It is very important that you do your best in your job and pick one you truly enjoy, as your experience with this job could set the stage for your future career.

Your parents, high school guidance counselors, athletic coaches, your local one-stop career center or clergy may be able to assist you with finding a part-time job that is just right for you. Believe it or not most teens have contacts among local businesses, they may also help you evaluate which jobs you will enjoy and excel at. When your ready to go to work, let your parents know first out of respect for them, to their blessing and then let everyone you know that you are looking for work. Don’t underestimate your network of family, friends and acquaintances, they may have other family, friends and networks of acquaintances that may help you land that great first job. Good luck parents and teens alike, be successful and go out there and  prosper everyday!


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