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As summer approaches, young people ready to join the workforce

Posted on Monday, June 13, 2016 at 9:55 pm

Child labor laws guide employers looking to hire teenagers for summer jobs

Most students across Tennessee have wrapped up their final day of the school year and are preparing for the summer months ahead. Many of those teenagers will look for summer jobs.

Tennessee has child labor laws to guide both teen workers, and their employers.

“Young people are the future workforce of Tennessee and the experience they gain during the summer months will last them a lifetime,” said Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips. “Tennessee’s child labor laws ensure teens are safe and not exploited while on the job.”

Students can start working for Tennessee employers, on a limited basis, at age 14. When school is not in session teens ages 14 and 15 can work eight hours per day, 40 hours per week, but they cannot work after 9:00 p.m.

Those 14 and 15-year-olds are not permitted to work without supervision, to cook, including prep work, and they cannot operate machinery, other than office equipment.

Teens who are 16 and 17 can work until midnight when school is not in session, but must have written consent from a parent to stay on the job until that hour.

State law prohibits minors from working several types of jobs including; taking orders for or serving intoxicating beverages, or working at an establishment where more than 25 percent of the gross receipts come from the sale of those beverages, working in occupations that involve pornography, participating in door-to-door sales, and working jobs declared hazardous.

Teens are not permitted to operate motor vehicles as part of their job, they cannot work with any type of explosives, and they are not allowed to operate heavy equipment.

Tennessee law does allow exemptions for some prohibited work for student learners and apprentices, under certain circumstances.

State law mandates break requirements for teenagers, and employers must maintain records of those breaks. Employers must also keep one form of proof of the minor’s age in the employee’s file.

Employers may be subject to an on-site child labor inspection if a minor is hurt on the job, if there is a complaint against the employer, or for a routine inspection.

If an inspector finds violations, the employer could receive a warning for an unintentional violation, or a penalty ranging from $150 – $1,000 per violation.

More information about the Child Labor Laws in Tennessee is available by going online to <>.