While the federal government doesn't require work permits or proof-of-age certificates for minors, many states do require them for workers of certain ages.
These documents represent a good faith effort to comply with minimum age requirements, and they protect the employer from prosecution for employing an underage worker. A fine or monetary penalty can result for an employer who violates an age requirement. State labor laws cover general work, agricultural and non-farm employment, the entertainment industry and door-to-door sales.
If you're not sure whether your state requires an employment certificate, check with your school guidance counselor, who should know the law. While most certificates are issued by states, the Department of Labor will issue one if the state does not and the minor's employer is requesting it.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Child Labor Rules
The Fair Labor Standards Act, established in 1938, covers minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor rules for children under the age of 18, affecting full- and part-time workers in private industries and the federal, state, and local governments. The rules vary based on the age of the child and his or her occupation.
The FLSA child labor laws are meant to protect children's educational opportunities and prohibit employers from putting them in working conditions dangerous to their health or safety. The provisions include restrictions on hours of work for children under the age of 16 and lists of occupations that are too dangerous them.
Banned Occupations for Children
According to the Department of Labor, children under the age of 18 are not permitted to work in 17 different occupations that are considered hazardous, including:
- Mining, including but not restricted to coal mining
- Driving a motor vehicle
- Using power-driven woodworking machines
- Using power-driven meat-processing machines and other equipment related to slaughtering, meat packing, processing, or rendering
- Using power-driven bakery machines
- Using balers and compactors
- Manufacturing brick, tile, and related products
- Using power-driven circular saws and other similar tools
- Working in wrecking and demolition
- Roofing work
How to Get an Employment Certificate for Minors
If your state requires an employment certificate, a.k.a. working papers, for minors, you can typically acquire the necessary documents through your school guidance office. (Not sure whether your state requires minors to get an employment certificate? The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor offers this guide. You can also contact your State Department of Labor for updated information.)
Again, requirements vary by state, but you should be prepared to offer some or all of the following information when you apply for an employment certificate:
- Proof of age, e.g. a birth certificate, school records, or a driver’s license
- A certificate of physical fitness from your doctor (this may require you to have a recent physical on file)
- Your parent’s or guardian’s full names.
You may also have to bring your parents or guardians with you when you request the papers. Depending on your state’s laws, your working papers may expire after a time and need to be renewed.
Sample Employment Certificate (Working Papers) for Minors
The following sample employment certificate contains the necessary information in order for a minor to obtain working papers. If you are required to get an employment certificate, working papers can be obtained from either your high school or the Department of Labor, depending on where you live.
_____ Employment During School Year
_____ Employment During School Vacations
This certificate authorizes the employment of
____________________________________ (Name of Minor)
____________________________________ (Address of Minor)
Minor’s Age _____ Date of Birth _________________
Date of Issue _____________
Date of Expiration _____________
Proof of Age Accepted ______________________________________ (Specify Proof of Age)
Certificate of Physical Fitness Accepted____________________
Grade Completed_____________ (Specify)
Place of Birth __________________________________________
Color of Hair _______________ Color of Eyes ________________
Height _____ feet _____inches
Weight ______ pounds
Name of Parent(s) ___________________________________
Telephone Number __________________________________
Signature of Minor __________________________________
Issuing Officer's Signature______________________
Name of School________________________________________________
Address of School______________________________________________
Certificate is Valid for One Year
Note: Federal Hour Restrictions
- Not more than 3 hours on a school day
- Not more than 18 hours in a school week
- Not more than 8 hours on a non-school day
- Not more than 40 hours in a non-school week
- Not before 7 a.m. nor after 7 p.m. (9 p.m. from June 1st through Labor Day)
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.