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Work Permits for Minors

Teenagers who want after-school and weekend jobs can be an untapped talent pool for your SMB, but if you plan on employing minors, you’ll need to make sure they’re eligible to work. In some states, that means an under-18 worker must obtain a work permit for minors. Learn more about these legal documents, plus other responsibilities you may have when employing minors, as outlined in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state-specific human resource laws.

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What is a work permit for minors?

Work permits for minors, which are often referred to as working papers, are legal documents that affirm a minor’s eligibility for employment. Although the federal government doesn’t currently require individuals under the age of 18 to have work permits, some state laws require minors to present these documents to potential employers. At the minor’s request, these documents may be issued by the state’s labor department or the school a minor attends, depending on the state of residence. They’re typically valid for one year.

There are two types of work permits:

  • Employment certificates: This type of work permit states the minor’s age and provides the employer with proof that the minor is eligible to be employed.
  • Age certificates: These permits provide documentation that a minor is old enough to be employed.

The type of permit issued varies by state and the age of the minor.

Does every state require minors to have a work permit?

No. Each state’s department of labor determines what documentation is necessary when employing minors.

In New York, for example, minors between the ages of 14 and 17 must have legal working papers to hold a job. However, other states have different requirements when it comes to employing minors.

Some states, such as Tennessee and Florida, don’t require work permits for minors. In these states, companies that employ under-18 workers must obtain written proof of a minor employee’s age, and documentation should be kept on file for the duration of the minor’s employment. While this requirement may be satisfied by an age certificate, employers may also request a birth certificate, passport, driver’s license or other legal document as proof.

In other states, such as Oregon, employers must apply annually for certificates so that they may legally employ minors aged 14 to 17.

To find out if job permits are necessary and any other requirements for employing minors in your state of operation, contact your state’s labor department or visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s state-by-state age certificate page.

How can a minor get a work permit?

A teenager who’s interested in working for your business may obtain a work permit for minors through their school’s guidance office or the state’s labor department, depending on your state. State-specific guidelines are available at the U.S. Department of Labor.

To get approved for a job permit, a minor may need to present one or more of the following items:

  • A completed work permit application
  • Proof of age, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license or school ID
  • A certificate of physical fitness from a physician, dated within one year of the application
  • A parent or guardian’s signature

In some cases, when applying for a work permit, minors may need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

FLSA employment requirements and other employer responsibilities when hiring minors

Whether you’ll need to request a work permit for minors or another form of age-specific documentation when you’re hiring someone under 18 depends on the state you operate in, and you should always follow the documentation rules established by your state’s labor department. However, you must also provide minors with a safe, lawful work environment by adhering to the child labor laws, as established through the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Child labor provisions mandated by the FLSA were designed to ensure that minors can seek employment without jeopardizing their health, well-being or education. These provisions cover:

Minimum employable age

According to the FLSA, children as young as 14 may work in nonagricultural jobs, but there are exceptions. FLSA’s minimum age standard doesn’t apply to minors who work for a business that’s owned and operated by a parent or guardian.

Minimum age requirements may also vary by state and industry. For example, states such as Illinois maintain a minimum working age as low as 10 when a child isn’t in school. Other states, including Utah, don’t have a minimum age for agricultural work, as long as the minor has parental consent. Minimum employable age limitations may not apply to jobs such as paper routes or babysitting.

Hazardous work environments

The FLSA prohibits minors from working in any environment deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. This may include work that involves excavating, explosive components or the operation of certain types of power equipment.

Workplace posting requirements

Nonagricultural employers are required to display the most up-to-date FLSA Minimum Wage Poster in a conspicuous workplace location. A formal schedule of a minor’s working hours must also be posted.

Employers in specific industries, such as grocery stores, restaurants, amusement parks and agriculture, must abide by industry-specific guidelines as well. These regulations may limit the jobs a minor may perform and may dictate industry-specific age requirements, schedule limitations and prohibited activities. You can find additional industry-specific information at the U.S DOL’s website.

Other HR concerns

Hiring and managing employees must always be done with care, but when you’re employing minors, there may be additional considerations:

  • Scheduling: When employing minors, you may find yourself navigating scheduling conflicts such as school, parental requirements, sports and other extracurricular activities. For an SMB with limited employees, this can make it tricky to get sufficient coverage during certain hours. By discussing scheduling expectations, obtaining availability requirements and facilitating shift trades between employees, you may be able to reduce schedule conflicts while making sure your business has the coverage it needs.
  • Parents and conflict: If you employ minors, their parents may try to intervene when conflicts occur, which can present a unique challenge for supervisors and HR staff. Although it’s important to be professional and polite when speaking with the parents of your young employees, you should handle any conflict directly with your employee, regardless of their age.

FAQ

What is the longest shift a minor can work?

How long a minor may work during a single shift depends on the child’s age. Under federal law, a child aged 14 or 15 may not be scheduled for more than a 3-hour shift on a school day and an 8-hour shift on days when school isn’t in session. For minors aged 16 to 18, there are no federal restrictions on shift length. However, individual states may have their own guidelines limiting the hours these employees may work.

What time do minors have to get off work?

Under federal law, minors in nonagricultural industries may not work after 7pm or before 7am.

Can a minor work overtime?

Whether a minor can legally work overtime depends on the child’s age. Under federal law, children between the ages of 14 and 16 may not work more than 40 hours in a week when school is not in session. Minors between the ages of 16 and 18 may work overtime, unless state rules prohibit it.

What happens if state and federal laws differ?

In some cases, state and federal laws may differ. When these differences concern of the employment of minors, the more restrictive rule always takes precedence.

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