The Common Law

Can My 15-Year-Old Work During the School Year?

Can My 15-Year-Old Work During the School Year?

My 15-year old son worked all summer as a lifeguard. Can he keep working now that school has started back up?

Yes, but not as much as he worked in the summer. 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 only can 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, teenagers who 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, 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 website (www.youthrules.dol.gov) or the Texas Workforce Commission summary of Texas child-labor laws (www.twc.state.tx.us).

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

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 www.austinlrs.com.

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