Updated October 28, 2020:

Can a minor be an independent contractor? Yes, there are specific jobs that allow minors to work as an independent contractor. As an independent contractor, the employer is not required to meet minimum wage or allows employees to work without any workers' compensation coverage. Prior to accepting any employment as a minor, parents should visit the workplace, tour the parent route, and verify you have proper insurance coverage to cover any injury to your child. Examples of these jobs include:

  • Delivery of newspapers.
  • Babysitting.
  • Golf caddy (some restrictions usually apply.)
  • Lawn mowing, snow shoveling, yard work.
  • Actor or performer in television, movies, radio, or on stage.
  • Employment in businesses solely owned or operated by their parents.
  • Employment on a farm owned or operated by their parents.

Child Labor Laws

Child labor laws, which vary by state, are designed to prevent minors from being exposed to dangerous occupations. The laws also take into account that as minors reach their teenage years, they can take on more hours and employment that is more challenging.

The state laws may vary greatly from state to state. The variation of rules include:

  • The minimum age for employment.
  • The number of hours the minor is allowed to work.
  • The specific hours the minor is not allowed to work.
  • The age at which the minor must obtain a work permit before starting a job.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is used to stipulate conditions related to the hiring of minors. Minors are anyone under the age of 18. As the ages increase, the restrictions lessen and provide more flexibility in work options.

  • Restrictions on Teens, (Ages 16 - 17)
    • Have the fewest workplace restrictions and cannot be changed even with parental consent.
    • If in high school, are limited in the number of hours they can work during the school year.
    • If in high school, limit how late they can work. For example, a state may limit a work shift to no later than 11:00 pm.
    • Cannot work in jobs that are considered hazardous.
    • Cannot operate heavy machinery or machinery that is deemed dangerous such as a meat slicer.
    • Cannot work in mining.
    • Periodic breaks must be given. The length and number of breaks are based on the length of the shift.
    • Apprenticeship programs are allowed in some states. These provide a level of exemption to include work restrictions that are allowed in other employment situations.
  • Restrictions on Young Teens (Aged 14-15)
    • Must be non-dangerous in nature.
    • Hours are significantly limited and are year-round, not just during the school year.
    • Hours may be slightly extended during school breaks.
    • Work shifts cannot last past 7:00 pm during the school year, and 9:00 pm in the summer.
    • Any machinery may not be used by minors in this age range and below.
    • Jobs that fall into this age range include grocery stores, movie theaters, offices, amusement parks, and gas stations.
    • Teens in this age range are allowed to work on farms with parental permission if it is outside of school hours.
    • Some states restrict anyone under the age of 16 from working at businesses where alcohol is served.

Exemptions for Agricultural Jobs

The history of farming in the United States is the reason there are exceptions for minors working in agricultural related jobs. While most of the rules apply, there are more exceptions and allowances in place. Some of these exemptions and allowances include:

  • If the parents own or operate a farm, there are complete exemptions that allow the minor to work on the farm.
  • Minors between 14 and 15 years of age who are in a vocational agriculture program may take part in select hazardous jobs if it is instrumental in the training curriculum. It must be short in duration and be fully supervised. Training and consent must be given before operating the machinery.
  • Minors between 12 and 13 years of age may be hired for work that is non-hazardous and is outside of school hours. The parents must also work on the farm or have parental consent in writing.
  • Minors between 10 and 11 years of age may be hired as a hand-harvest laborer if a Department of Labor waiver has been granted. The minor may not work longer than eight weeks in a calendar year.

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