Employees in the United States are protected by both federal and state law. In most states, children under the age of 18 have extra sets of rules that employers must follow before they can work. Most of these apply directly to children ages 14 and 15, since the nationwide Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) sets strict rules concerning the hours, days and conditions under which 15-years-olds and other minors under 16 can work.
The FLSA has several restrictions on the hours 15-year-olds can work. They must only be scheduled for nonschool hours and for no more than three hours on a school day. They can also work only 18 hours during a school week. If a 15-year-old is enrolled in a Work Experience and Career Exploration Program, he may work for up to 23 hours during a school week. On a nonschool day, 15-year-olds can work eight hours and in a nonschool week, they can work 40 hours. These hours must be between 7 a.m and 7 p.m., except during the summer months from June 1 through Labor Day in September. During this period, 15-year-olds can work until 9 p.m.
Minors in general cannot work in any occupation deemed hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labor. These include jobs in mining, manufacturing, logging, wrecking, roofing or meatpacking. Fifteen-year-olds can work in offices, retails stores, movie theaters, restaurants, amusement parks, gas stations and grocery stores but are also specifically prohibited from working in construction, repair, warehouses or transportation.
Minimum wage for minors does not have to meet the federal minimum wage guidelines for adults under certain circumstances. The FLSA allows employers to pay minors a training wage that is less than the minimum wage during their first 90 consecutive calendar days they are employed. This 90-day period includes all weekdays during this period, not just days work days. As of 2011, training wage for 15-year-olds could be as low as $4.25 per hour, although states can set their own higher training wages.
Work Permits & Breaks
Although many states do require them, the federal FLSA laws does not mandate that 15-year-olds or any other minors need a work permit before being employed. Federal law also does not require that 15-year-olds be given regular breaks or meal periods, though the state may have its own laws regarding this as well.
Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.