Labor Laws and How They Affect You

Do people my age have jobs?

Yes! Many high school students do some sort of paid work. These jobs tend to fall into one of these categories:

  • Part-time work for an employer: These are jobs that a company hires you to do after, on weekends, or both. Think salesperson at a clothing store, barista, or grocery store cashier. 
  • Part-time work for hire: These are jobs people hire you directly to do. You set your prices and schedule rather than going through a company. Think babysitter, yard worker, or dog walker.
  • Seasonal work: These are jobs you do either full time or part time, but for a limited period of time. Think summer camp counselor or holiday gift wrapper at the mall.
  • Work-study programs: These are jobs that you can do at your school, or through a school program, to earn money. Think library assistant, office worker, or tutor.

Trends indicate that fewer of today’s high schoolers have jobs, compared to previous generations. However, numbers have been shown to rise significantly in the summer months. This trend indicates students are more intensely focused on school and extracurriculars during the year but are eager to work over summer break.

Having a job in high school can be beneficial. The obvious benefit is earning money for you and your family.  But jobs are also useful for learning new skills, introducing you to possible future careers, giving you a sense of responsibility and purpose, and introducing you to new people. 

What are labor laws? How do they affect me?

Labor laws are rules set by both federal and state governments meant to protect workers, including high school students. Because they vary state to state, be sure to check the regulations in your area when you apply for a job. 

The laws most relevant to high school students address these questions:

  • Age requirements: What is the minimum working age? Do different types of jobs have age restrictions? 
  • Schedule requirements: How many hours is a high school student allowed to work each day or week? How does this differ during the school year versus winter, spring, or summer break? Are students allowed to do paid work during school hours? How early in the day or late into the night can students be asked to be at their job? 
  • Occupation requirements:  What types of work are minors allowed or not allowed to do? Are there specific jobs that have minimum ages of 18 or 21?
  • Payment requirements: What’s the minimum wage an employer is allowed to pay you?

All of these laws have been put in place to protect workers from being exploited, overworked, or asked to do jobs that can harm their health and well-being. It’s illegal for employers to violate any of these regulations.

Can I work if I’m under 14?

Yes! Even though the labor laws mean that you can’t get a formal job at a business, there are plenty of other things you can do to earn money, learn skills, and have fun. You’re free to do the type of “work for hire” mentioned above. For example, you can do chores for family and neighbors, babysit, pet sit, deliver newspapers, and even be a junior counselor at some summer camps.    

What happens when I turn 18?

Once you turn 18, the laws regulating employment of minors no longer apply to you. Companies may still have their own age requirements for certain jobs, especially if they involve driving, heavy machinery, or alcohol. But, for the most part, you’ll have freedom to apply for the jobs you’re interested in and work the hours that best fit your schedule.