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Ask the Hotline

Posted on March 8, 2022


We may need to hire some teen-agers this summer and want to be sure we are compliant with the child-labor laws. Do you have a summary?

(Editor’s note – As we head toward the end of the school year many employers have questions about the rules are regarding hiring minors for the summer. The following Ask the Hotline article ran previously, but still offers necessary information and resources.)


There are several issues for any employer thinking about hiring children between the ages of 14 and 17. State and federal law set out explicit provisions regarding the hours children may work and the positions and duties they may hold.

Remember that the law categorizes minors by two age groupings – 14 and 15-year-olds and 16 and 17-year-olds – recognizing that children in the older group are eligible to perform more complex/responsible workplace duties.

There is a chart available that includes both state and federal laws in one document.

Age Requirements

With few exceptions, minors must be at least 14 years old to work. The exceptions include babysitting, news carriers, working on farms, and in entertainment (with a special state-issued permit).


14-15-year-old minors may NOT be employed:

  • During school hours except as provided in approved work experience and career- exploration programs;
  • Between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. except from July 1 through Labor Day, when they may work until 9 p.m;
  • More than 3 hours per day during school weeks and not more than 8 hours per day during weeks when school is not in session;
  • More than 18 hours per school week except in approved work experience and career- exploration programs, in which case, they may work 23 hours;
  • More than 40 hours per week when school is not in session;
  • More than 6 days per week.

16-17-year-old minors may NOT be employed:

  • Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. with exceptions:
    • When an establishment stops serving customers at 10 p.m., the minor may work until 10:15 p.m.
    • On nights not preceding a regularly scheduled school day they may work until 11:30 p.m.
    • In restaurants and racetracks, they may work until 12 a.m. on nights not preceding a regularly scheduled school day.
  • More than 9 hours per day;
  • More than 48 hours in a week; or
  • More than 6 days per week.


After 8 p.m., minors must be:

  • directly supervised by an adult who is located in the workplace and who is reasonably accessible, unless the minor works at a kiosk, cart, or stand in the common area of an enclosed shopping mall that has security from 8:00 p.m. until the mall is closed to the public.

Occupation restrictions

The link here contains a list of prohibited jobs for minors between 14 and 17 years of age.

Applying for an Employment Permit

All minors under the age of 18 seeking work:

  • must complete an employment permit application and
  • must obtain the permit before starting a new job.  Applications for permits are available This link has been updated to reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For minors who are residents of Massachusetts:

  • Permits are issued by the superintendent of schools for the municipality in which the minor lives or attends school – either is acceptable.

For minors who reside outside the commonwealth, the permit is issued by the superintendent for the municipality in which the minor’s job will be located.

No permit may be granted unless there is a specific employer, work address, and job description.

 Employer Responsibility

The employer must keep the original permit on file at the place of employment as long as the minor is employed at that location or until the minor reaches 18.

If the minor’s employment is terminated, voluntarily or otherwise, the employer must return the permit to the superintendent’s office within two days of the termination.

Permits are valid while the minor holds the job or until he/she reaches the age of 18. After that, the minor no longer needs such documentation, and the permit and copies may be destroyed.

Although you may choose to hire only high-school graduates, remember that some of them may be still under 18 and therefore subject to the child-labor laws. The law states clearly that minors who are no longer students are covered by the child-labor laws in the same way that students of the same age are covered until the age of 18.

 Transferring Permits

Minors may not transfer a permit from one job to another job.  The process must begin again, even if the employer is the same, but the work location has changed. An employer who wishes to employ a minor at more than one location must keep a permit on file at each business location. A minor does not have to apply for a new employment permit at the beginning of the school year if she or he has the same job.

Final thoughts

Any employer looking to hire a teen-ager subject to the child-labor laws should be familiar with the working hours restrictions and permitted jobs. Allow enough time to obtain the proper documentation and make sure that you require and retain those documents.

The child-labor laws are enforced by the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division and there are significant fines for violations.

AIM members with questions on child-labor laws or other human resources topics may call the Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277. Top of Form