Under federal law, children must be at least 14 years old to have a job in the U.S. In addition to strict limits on the number of hours children are allowed to work, federal law limits what these 14-year-olds are allowed to do. The youngest workers are authorized to perform dozens of tasks. Under federal labor law, any job that isn't specifically authorized for a 14-year-old is prohibited. If you are a young teenager looking for work, start by examining the types of jobs you are allowed to do. The types of companies that will hire you will depend on local labor conditions, and teens have traditionally been hit hard in recessions as adults seek jobs they would have avoided in good economic times.
Jobs 14-Year-Olds Can Hold
Fourteen- and 15-year-olds are allowed to work in offices, perform work of an intellectual or creative nature or bag, carry groceries and stock shelves. They may also work as cashiers, salespersons, models or comparison shoppers. They may pump gas, deliver goods by foot, bicycle or public transit, and clean fruits and vegetables. Any work that is hazardous is specifically forbidden.
Duties With Restrictions
Young workers may clean up and can use floor waxers or vacuums, but they are specifically forbidden from using lawn trimmers or mowers. They may cook but cannot work over an open flame and can only work over a deep fryer with equipment that automatically raises and lowers food. They can pump gas and clean cars, but they cannot fix or maintain them. They can clean grease traps as long as the temperatures do not exceed 100 F. They can also wrap and weigh and affix prices to goods, but they cannot do these jobs in an area where meat is handled, and they cannot work in a meat cooler or a freezer. They may not work at a lifeguard in natural bodies of water, such as lakes or ponds.
Where They Work
Most of the statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics dealing with employment of children only track the work of 16- and 17-year-olds. In 1997, the Bureau of Labor Statistics completed a longitudinal study of youth employment. The study found that 17 percent of employed 14-year-olds worked in eating and drinking establishments, and 14 percent worked in retail stores. One-third worked in service occupations, 6 percent as cashiers, 10 percent in administrative jobs and 14 percent as laborers. Youth participation in the labor force steadily declined between 2000 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of hours a teenager can work is restricted under federal law. Fourteen-year-olds cannot work during school hours and cannot work more than three hours per day on a school day. They cannot work more than 18 hours per week when school is in session. They also may not work more than eight hours per day. In the summer, they cannot work more than 40 hours per week. They may not work after 7 p.m. during the school year. Individual states may further restrict the type of jobs that teenagers can hold.