Reminder: Youth Workplace Rules

Published on July 09, 2010, 12:22 pm
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Summer has begun, and the State Labor Department wants to remind employers, parents and young people about labor laws that govern the employment of children under 18.

“Labor laws protect our children from those who would take advantage of them, as well as workplace accidents. It’s important that employers, parents and young people themselves be aware of what these laws require. When these laws are violated, young workers can be hurt and employers run the risk of significant fines for breaking the law,” said Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner.

In general, the law prohibits children under 18 from working in potentially-dangerous jobs or work settings, such as construction; meat-packing plants; brick and tile manufacturing; logging or sawmills; as a helper on a motor vehicle; mining; or caring for inmates in penal, corrections or mental health facilities. Children also may not operate certain power-driven machinery, such as woodworking or food service machines. There are additional restrictions for those under 16.

Minimum wage and overtime laws also apply to minors, and they are covered by Workers’ Compensation.

Because children need rest, there are also limits on the hours minors can work. The law limits the total number of hours a minor can work, as well as the times of day during which they may work. This varies by age, and whether or not school is in session. For example, during the summer when school is not in session, minors age 16 or 17 may work a maximum of 8 hours per day, for a maximum of 48 hours per week, 6 days a week between 6 AM and 12 midnight.

When school is in session, minors 16 or 17 years old who are working in permitted occupations except farming, newspaper carriers and street trades, can work:

• 4 hours on Mondays through Thursdays preceding school days, or 8 hours on other days,
• between the hours of 6 AM and 10 PM,
• a maximum of 6 days per week, for
• a maximum of 28 hours per week.

These requirements are even more restrictive for minors 14 and 15, and different for those doing farm work, street trades, and for newspaper carriers.
Why these restrictions? Safety is one very big reason. Young workers have an on-the-job injury rate that is twice as high as adults. More than 200,000 young people suffer work-related injuries each year, and in New York State, four of ten teens injured on the job had permanent injuries. Restrictions on hours worked and type of work performed are designed to protect young workers, who lack the experience of adults on the job. In addition, young workers are usually also in school – their number one priority.

In order to work, your child will need an employment certificate or permit (commonly referred to as “working papers”) suitable for the type of work he or she is seeking. Certificates or permits can be obtained from the school or school district you attend, with the exception of Child Performer Permits that are available from the New York State Department of Labor. Even though schools may be closed for the summer, each school district is required to have an office open for some period of time over the summer. Call ahead to find out which office is open and what hours it is open.

When applying for a job, young people will need to bring an application form that a parent has signed, proof of age (either a birth certificate or some other document at least two years old that satisfies the official issuing the certificate), and a certificate of physical fitness. The physical fitness certificate may be obtained from a personal physician or a school doctor. As long as all these documents are in order, a certificate or permit can be issued immediately. With the exception of the physically disabled, certificates or permits should be obtained before starting a job search.

More detailed information about the types of work minors can do, employment certificates and permits for minors, hours of work, and special situations is available in the booklet Laws Governing the Employment of Minors on the Department of Labor’s web site at

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