The Common Law

Employment Law -- Teenage Workers

My daughter just turned 14 over the summer, and she keeps talking about getting a job. I thought you had to be at least 16 before you could work legally. Can she really work at only 14?

Yes. Federal and Texas law allows 14- and 15-year-olds to be legally employed. But, in an effort to balance work with school and other teenage activities, there are child labor laws that restrict how many hours they can work and what kinds of jobs they can have.

For example, according to federal law, 14- and 15-year-olds can only be employed for three hours per school day and a total of 18 hours per school week. During the school term, these hours can only be worked outside of school hours and between 7am and 7pm. They can work up to eight hours per day on nonschool days, and a maximum of 40 hours per week when school is not in session. In comparison, youth that are 16 or 17 years old can perform any nonhazardous job for unlimited hours.

Both Texas and federal law limit the types of jobs that 14- and 15-year-olds can have. As a general rule, retail, food service, office and clerical work, and cleaning jobs are allowed. Alternatively, jobs involving manufacturing, construction, or transportation are generally prohibited because of the potential risks they pose to a child's safety, health or well-being.

There are numerous exceptions to the above rules, which include everything from child actors and paperboys to kids who work in nonhazardous positions while under their parents' direct supervision. Some kids may even be able to apply for specific hardship exemptions. For more detailed info on child labor laws, see the U.S. Department of Labor Web site ( or the Texas Workforce Commission summary of the Texas Child Labor Law (

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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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