Young workers ages 14-17 play an important role in the U.S. economy, particularly in the hospitality and retail industries. If you hire young workers, make sure to learn about laws governing their employment and safety.
Laws governing younger workers
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes child labor laws for the government and private sector at the national level. Rules vary depending on age and occupation.
In addition, all states have youth labor laws. When federal and state standards differ, rules providing the most protection apply. Find State Child Labor Laws for your state.
Safety is key
When hiring young workers, remember it’s often their first formal work experience. So safety is critical. Here are key points from a 5-step safety check from the National Young Worker Safety Resource Center.
- Know and comply with relevant laws
- Establish an effective safety and health program
- Stress safety to frontline supervisors
- Train young workers to put safety first
- Develop specific programs to support new and young workers
More on hiring and managing youth workers
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and its partners have assembled helpful resources on youth employment, including DOL’s YouthRules! website. See:
- The DOL Wage & Hours Division’s Child Labor page
- DOL’s elaws® Child Labor Rules Advisor question-and-answer tool
- Youth employment industry factsheets (farming, driving, and more)
- Free Employers Pocket Guide on Youth Employment (English and Spanish)
To adapt to the workplace, young workers often require soft skills training in communication, teamwork, and other areas. For ideas, see DOL’s Skills That Pay the Bills.