Employing minors: what you can and can’t do

High school students can be a great source for hourly employees, but keep in mind there are an extra set of labor laws to follow for employing minors.  

The Federal Labor and Standards Act sets hour restrictions for 14 & 15 year olds.  Although the FLSA has not set restrictions for 16 & 17 year olds, over half of the states have work hours, meal breaks or rest period laws specific to minors. So be sure to check your local laws.  Read more about FLSA work restrictions for minors here.

Summary of FLSA work hour restrictions for minors

What you Can’t DoRestrictions by AgeWhat you Can Do
Under FLSA, no additional restrictions16 & 17 year oldsUnlimited
No more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays; Not more than 8 hours on a non-school day; No more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session; Not more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session;  Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. – except between June 1 and Labor day when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m. 14 & 15 year oldsShort Hours during the school day.  Up to 8 hours on weekends or summer days.    

The FLSA also regulates which types of occupations minors can have.  Minors are prohibited from working in dangerous fields like in a plant, with heavy machinery, driving motor vehicles, or fire fighting.  Most administrative jobs pass the test, but for the restaurant industry, it may be more difficult to employ a minor in a back of the house position.

Below, find a summary of types of restaurant positions the FLSA regulates for minors. Check your local laws as many states have their own restrictions that apply to minors in addition to the FLSA.

Employing minors in a restaurant

What Minors Can’t DoCategoryWhat Minors Can Do
Dangerous occupations like working in a plant, motor vehicle operations, delivery driver, or firefighterOccupations

16 & 17 year olds

Food server, dishwasher, cashier, administrative work.  In Food prep minors may clean vegetables and fruits, wrap, seal. Label, weigh, price, and stock items including fruits vegetables.  
Prohibited equipment includes meat slicers, meat saw, patty forming machines, meat grinder, meat choppers, commercial mixers and bakery machines.  Equipment 16 & 17 year oldsMay use a dishwasher, vacuum, floor waxing machine, coffee machines, computer, printer, cash register.  
In addition to those listed above, minors may not perform any baking activities. They may not work in freezers or meat coolers, but they may occasionally enter a freezer. Occupations 14 & 15 year oldsCashiering, table service and “busing,” and clean up work like vacuuming or waxing floors.  They may perform kitchen work and food prep work.
They may not operate certain broilers, rotisseries, pressure cookers, fryolators, high speed ovens, or rapid toasters. Equipment 14 & 15 year oldsDish-washers, toasters, milk shake blenders, warming lamps, and coffee grinders.  They may perform limited cooking duties involving electric or gas grills that do not entail cooking over an open flame. They may also cook with deep fat fryers that are equipped with and utilize devices that automatically raise and lower the “baskets” into and out of the hot grease of oil.


For many minors this is their first real experience in the transition from childhood to adulthood.   Remember the lessons you learned in your first job?  I learned the basics like the importance of being on time, and how much hard work was required to earn my paycheck.  Because it may be their first position, a little extra coaching and development sets up your employee for success.  

Dealing with conflict and parents

Sometimes, when employing minors, their mothers may try to intervene.  Remember, most of these young adults still live with and answer to their parents.  It is not uncommon to get a phone call from an irate mother fuming about a situation they heard from their child that may not even be true.  I have received many phone calls from upset moms asking why the manager fired her child.  

The real story is that sweet Tommy stopped showing up for work over a month ago or was caught using drugs in the bathroom.  Unless the mother is referencing illegal harassment or illegal working conditions, be polite, but remember your relationship is with the employee and not their parent.  The employee is expected to behave as any other professional employee and solve their problems directly.  

Scheduling minors

Scheduling around school schedules, sports matches, extracurricular activities, social events, and everything else teens are doing can be tricky, especially when those commitments don’t necessarily repeat consistently. That’s where Homebase can help.

With Homebase, you don’t need to worry about last-minute schedule changes. You can have all your employees add their schedule availabilities in advance, even if their availability changes week to week. Then, when you’re building the schedule, you’ll be able to see at a glance who can work which shifts.

And, if something comes up after you’ve published the schedule — like a soccer game —  they can easily trade shifts with a coworker on the Homebase mobile app (with your approval).

With these tips and tricks in mind, employing minors should be a breeze. However, if you have more HR and compliance questions, Homebase gives you live access to HR experts who can answer any question you may have. 

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