As Summer Approaches, Young People Ready to Join the Workforce

Child Labor Laws Guide Employers Looking to Hire Teenagers for Summer Jobs
Thursday, May 26, 2016 | 08:25am

NASHVILLE – Students across Tennessee are down to the final days of the school year and they are preparing for the summer months ahead.  Many of those teenagers will trade time in the classroom for time on the job during their break.

Tennessee has child labor laws to guide both teen workers and their employers, through the process of helping young people become an important part of the state’s workforce.

Students can start working for Tennessee employers, on a limited basis, at age 14.  State law governs the time a young person can spend in the workplace.  When school is not in session, teens aged 14 and 15 can work eight hours per day, 40 hours per week, but cannot work after 9:00 p.m.

Those 14 and 15-year-olds are not permitted to work without supervision, they are not allowed to cook, including prep work, and they cannot operate any 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, serving intoxicating beverages or working at an establishment where more than 25% 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 or heavy equipment as part of their job nor may they work with any type of explosives.

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 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, 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 Act in Tennessee is available at