May 30, 2023

Child Labor Laws and Summer Hiring

Warm weather is here, and school is almost out. The need for good employees in our city remains high, and a lot of our members are looking to hire teenage workers for the summer. If your city is looking to hire teenagers this summer, a few moments to review the detailed child labor law requirements can save your city a lot of money because the penalties for violating these laws can be very steep.

KLC would like to share this quick training from the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet. The training serves as an overview of Kentucky’s child labor laws. The training only takes a few minutes and can be accessed here.

For those readers not as digitally inclined, or just as a handy guide to keep on hand, here are the key areas to know when hiring teenagers.

Minimum Age Standards

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Kentucky law establish both hours and occupational standards for minors. In most cases, the state and federal laws are very similar; however, it is important to be aware of both laws because where the two laws differ, the more restrictive requirements between the two will apply.

Under state and federal law, workers under the age of 18 are considered minors for purposes of employment and both limit the occupations where minors may be employed and the number of hours they may work in those occupations. This article contains an overview of the most common requirements. To review the complete federal and state law see 803 KAR 1:100, KRS Chapter 339 and 29 CFR Part 570.

Occupation Restrictions

Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from working in occupations declared hazardous by the Kentucky Commissioner of Workplace Standards or the U.S. Department of Labor, including, but not limited to:

  • Motor vehicle driver and outside helper on a motor vehicle, except when the driving is incidental, and occasionally by a 17-year-old as stated within 29 CFR Part 570.52;
  • Power-driven hoisting apparatus;
  • Power-driven paper product machines, including scrap paper balers and cardboard box compactors;
  • Power-driven circular saws and band saws; and
  • Excavating operations.

Minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from working positions, including, but not limited to:

  • The use of a hoisting apparatus or power-driven machinery other than office machines;
  • Operating or helping on motor vehicles, although they may clean vehicles;
  • Mowing (KLC Insurance Services recommends they be at least 18 years of age);
  • Performing public messenger duties;
  • Transporting people or property, including the operation of golf carts;
  • Public utilities;
  •  Maintenance or repair of machinery;
  •  Tasks requiring the use of ladders or scaffolds;
  • Cooking (except at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars, or cafeterias); and 
  • Loading or unloading trucks.

Minors between 14 and 16 years of age may be employed in positions that include:

  • Office and clerical work, including the operation of office machines;
  • Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, and public transportation;
  • Cleanup work, including the use of vacuum cleaners and floor waxers, and maintenance of grounds. They may not use power-driven mowers or cutters;
  • Kitchen work and other work involved in preparing and serving food and beverages, including the operation of machines and devices used in the performance of the work, such as dishwashers, toasters, milkshake blenders, and coffee grinders;
  • Work in connection with cars and trucks such as car cleaning, washing, and polishing. They may not perform any work involving the use of pits, racks, lifting apparatus, or the inflation of any tire mounted on a rim equipped with a removable retaining ring; and
  • Lifeguards (must be at least 15 years of age)1.

Generally, minors under the age of 14 may not work except in an employment program sponsored by the school they attend and as listed below:

  • Minors between 13 and 15 years of age may carry golf bags weighing no more than 35 pounds;
  • Caddies under the age of 14 may caddy only 18 holes in one day; and
  • Minors who are 11 and 12 years old may not carry golf bags, and they are restricted to caddying only with a pull cart.

No minor under 16 years of age may operate power-driven golf carts or any power-driven maintenance equipment. In addition, there are exceptions for minors working as a referee, umpire, or official for an age bracket younger than the minor’s own age with the parent or guardian’s consent.

Restricted Hours

Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to work during school hours nor may they work:

  • More than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week during the summer months defined as June 1 through Labor Day;
  • Before 7:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day; 
  • Three hours on school days, eight hours on non-school days, or 18 hours a week when school is in session; or 
  • Before 7:00 a.m. and after 7:00 p.m. when school is in session.

These restrictions on hours do not apply to minors under 16 years of age who have graduated from high school or an approved vocational school equivalent to high school, are enrolled in an approved work training or career exploration program, are otherwise not required to attend school, or school authorities have made arrangements for them to attend school at times other than the regular hours if the employment will not interfere with the minor's schooling, health, or well-being.

Children between the ages of 16 and 17 are not permitted to work:

  • More than six hours per day on a school day or eight hours per day on a non-school day during the school year. The total hours worked in a week during the school year must not exceed 30 unless they have gained a special exemption from both a parent and school administrator. If exempted, they may only work up to 40 hours per week during the school year.
  • Additionally, a minor of this age may not work before 6:00 a.m. or later than 10:30 p.m. preceding a school day, or 1:00 a.m. preceding a non-school day.
  • There are no restrictions on the number of hours per day or per week a 16- or 17-year-old may work during the summer months.

Meal and Rest Breaks

No minor under the age of 18 may work for more than five continuous hours without a lunch period of at least 30 minutes, which should be documented by the employer. Additionally, the rest period requirements for all employees will also apply to minors. Kentucky law requires a reasonable paid break (usually 10 minutes or more) to be provided to an employee during each four hours worked.

Notice and Other Hiring Requirements

Cities, as employers, must conspicuously post where minors under the age of 18 are working, a summary of the child labor laws, a list of occupations prohibited to minors, and a statement of the hours that minors are allowed to work each day. The Kentucky Office of Workplace Standards provides a downloadable version of the required poster on its website on its website. Cities are also required to keep a separate list of the names, ages, and addresses of all minors employed, as well as the start and stop time for each workday and the beginning and ending of each meal period provided to each minor in their employment. The statutes also require the employer to maintain proof of age for each minor, which can be in the form of a copy of a birth certificate, a driver’s license, or school identification.

Cities must also complete the Form I-9 as well as Form W-4 on all newly hired minors even if they are only employed for the summer. Specific information on filling out Form I-9 for minors can be found on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. If it is a seasonal rehire, cities must also reverify or update the Form I-9 employment authorization. Information on the reverification process is also available on the USCIS website.

Lastly, remember that minors that are hired by the city must be treated as any other employee hired by the city. They must be paid at least the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour, and they must be paid for all hours worked. Also, as with other employees, be sure to provide and review all city policies with them and any other items normally provided during the city’s new hire process.


Penalties for violation of child labor laws can be steep, including fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 per offense, plus $100 for each day the violation continues after notice. As such, knowing the law in this area before you hire is essential.

For more information on this or any other personnel matter, contact KLC Personnel Services Managing Attorney Chris Johnson.

1 Pursuant to 902 KAR 10:120, when operating a public pool where children under the age of 17 are permitted, the city must have a lifeguard present.