As the warmer weather draws near, many businesses will consider hiring high school students or other youths to meet their seasonal staffing demands. Youth workers are beneficial because they are typically paid lower wages, they can work flexible hours, and they have no expectation of permanent employment.

But there are legal restrictions on the type of work that minors can perform, as well as restrictions on their work hours. These restrictions, which vary by age group, are set forth in the regulations to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and in various state-specific laws. Additionally, some states, including Michigan, require employers to keep a work permit, signed by a school official, on record for any minor that they employ

Below is an overview of the youth employment restrictions, for non-agricultural youth employment, under the FLSA and Michigan’s Youth Employment Standards Act. Employers involved in agriculture, and those with employees outside of Michigan, must be sure to check the specific rules that pertain to them.

Youths Under 14 Years

Types of work

Youths under 14 years of age may perform only the following jobs:

  • Deliver newspapers to customers;
  • Babysit on a casual basis;
  • Domestic work or chores in connection with a private residence;
  • Work as an actor or performer in movies, TV, radio, or theater;
  • Work as a homeworker gathering evergreens and making evergreen wreaths;
  • Work for a business owned entirely by their parents as long as it is not in mining, manufacturing, or any of 17 hazardous occupations defined by the Secretary of Labor found here;
  • Certain youth athletic referee jobs (11 years or older)*;
    • Golf caddy (11 years or older)*;
    • Shoe shining*;
    • Bridge caddy – for events sanctioned by the American Contract Bridge League or similar organization (11 years or older)*;
    • Setting targets for trap, skeet, or sporting clays shooting events (13 years or older)*.

*Denotes Michigan-specific exemption

Hours

Hours of work are not tracked for minors under 14 years of age, because their employment is limited to work that is exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

14 and 15 Year Olds

Types of work

Federal and Michigan laws have similar restrictions on the work that may be performed by 14 and 15 year olds. Minors in this age group may perform only the following jobs:

  • Jobs deemed appropriate for youth under the age of 14;
  • Most office and retail jobs;
  • Intellectual or creative work such as computer programming, teaching, tutoring, singing, acting, or playing an instrument;
  • Errands or delivery work by foot, bicycle and public transportation;
  • Clean-up and yard work which does not include using power-driven mowers, cutters, trimmers, edgers, or similar equipment;
  • Work in connection with cars and trucks such as dispensing gasoline or oil and washing or hand polishing;
  • Cooking with gas or electric grills that do not involve cooking over an open flame, or with deep fryers that are equipped with a device that automatically lowers and raises fryer baskets;
  • Kitchen and other work involved in preparing and serving food and beverages, including reheating food, washing dishes, and cleaning equipment;
  • Cleaning vegetables and fruits, and wrapping, sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking of items, when performed in areas separate from a freezer or meat cooler;
  • Loading or unloading objects for use at a worksite including rakes, hand-held clippers, and shovels;
  • 15-year-olds who have completed certification training can perform lifeguard duties at traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks.

Note: In Michigan, minors may not sell or serve alcohol, or work in an establishment where alcohol is sold at retail or for consumption unless the sale of food or goods accounts for at least 50% of the establishment’s total gross receipts.

Hours

Federal and Michigan laws have slightly different work hour restrictions for 14 and 15 year olds. Below is a summary of the two statutes:

  • Work must be performed outside of school hours;
  • Maximum of 3 hours on a school day, including Friday**;
  • Maximum of 18 hours per week when school is in session**, or 48 combined school and work hours*;
  • Maximum of 8 hours per day when school is not in session**, or 10 hours per day with a weekly maximum average not to exceed 8 hours per day*;
  • Maximum of 40** or 48* hours per week when school is not in session;
  • Maximum of 6 days in 1 week*;
  • No more than 5 hours continuously without an interval of at least 30 minutes for a meal and rest period*;
  • Hours of work limited to 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.*, or 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. except for June 1 through Labor Day, when nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.**;
  • Adult supervision required for work performed after sunset or 8 p.m., whichever is earlier, in any occupation that involves cash transactions at a fixed location*.

*Denotes Michigan-specific rule **Denotes federal-specific rule

16 and 17 Year Olds

Types of work

Under federal law, 16 and 17 year olds may perform any job that has not been declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor (see link above). Michigan law imposes the same restriction on hazardous jobs and, in addition, requires that the job not exceed the maximum alcohol sales restriction mentioned above.

Hours

The FLSA imposes no hour, workweek, meal, or rest period restrictions specific to minors over age 15. The Michigan restrictions are as follows:

  • Maximum of 10 hours per day, with a weekly maximum average not to exceed 8 hours per day;
  • Maximum of 24 hours per week when school is in session;
  • Maximum of 48 hours per week when school is not in session;
  • Maximum of 6 days in 1 week;
  • No more than 5 hours continuously without an interval of at least 30 minutes for a meal and rest period;
  • Hours of work limited to 6 a.m. - 10:30 p.m., except on Fridays, Saturdays, and periods when school is not in session, when nighttime work hours are extended to 11:30 p.m;
  • Adult supervision required for any work performed after sunset or 8 p.m., whichever is earlier, in any occupation that involves cash transactions at a fixed location.

Conclusion

Youth employment laws are nuanced and they often differ depending on the state in which the work is being performed. Violations of these laws can result in hefty civil fines and, in some cases, criminal penalties. To avoid these violations, businesses must be sure to evaluate the type of work and the hours of work that they plan to assign to their young workers, as well as any work permit requirements.