Teen Employment Restrictions: What You Should Know

Do you have a teen that is in the workforce now or hopes to join soon? Did you know that there are certain jobs that teens cannot legally perform? Did you know there are also limits on specific job functions teens can perform?

While most teen employment restrictions are spelled out in labor laws, the job of enforcing them is the responsibility of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Their mission is to keep all workers (teens and adults) safe from injuries.

According to OSHA, teens under the age of 18 in non-agricultural jobs may not perform the following:

  • Drive a motor vehicle as a regular part of the job or operate a forklift at any time
  • Operate many types of powered equipment like a circular saw, box crusher, meat slicer or bakery machine
  • Work in wrecking, demolition, excavation, or roofing
  • Work in mining, logging, or sawmills
  • Work in meat-packing or slaughtering
  • Work where there is exposure to radiation
  • Work where explosives are manufactured or stored

Prohibited Occupations for Agricultural Employees

The child labor rules that apply to agricultural employment depend on the age of the young worker and the kind of job to be performed. The rules are the same for all youth, migrant children as well as local resident children. In addition to restrictions on hours, the Secretary of Labor has found that certain jobs in agriculture are too hazardous for anyone under 16 to perform.

  • Once a young person turns 16 years old, he or she can do any job in agriculture.
  • A youth 14 or 15 years old can work in agriculture, on any farm, but only in non-hazardous jobs.
  • A youth 12 or 13 years of age can only work in agriculture on a farm if a parent has given written permission or if a parent is working on the same farm as his or her child, and only 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 FLSA, “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 only be employed with a parent’s permission and only in non-hazardous jobs.

If your teen wants to earn extra money and is excited about getting that first job and is 14 or 15 years old, there are additional restrictions on what they can do.

There are several websites and online resources that can help parents and teens learn more about the laws and risks involved in teen employment. OSHA provides a complete teen worker site that discusses related laws, hazards and provides links to additional resources. They also provide an in-depth eTool that covers teen worker safety in restaurants.

For more information, go to: http://www.osha.gov/youngworkers/index.html

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