The Minimum Legal Age to Work in New Jersey

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Federal child labor laws state that the minimum age to work is 14 (with some exceptions), and the same is true for New Jersey. When there is a conflict between federal and state laws, the more restrictive law will apply. New Jersey requires workers under 18 to have a child employment certificate. Young workers can obtain the employment certificate needed to work from their school.

Exceptions to the Rule

The minimum age to work does not include working in the agricultural field, in which youth can begin working at the age of 12 or performing in the entertainment industry, in which there are no age requirements. Also, there are other child labor laws that limit the hours in which minors can work and regulate the minimum wage. Juveniles who haven't reached the age of 14 can usually perform in a number of jobs, including paper routes, in which youths who have reached the age of 11 can perform.

Limitations on Hours for Young Teens

While New Jersey teens can work in a variety of jobs, the state does have restrictions on the hours 14- to 15-year-olds can work. When school is in session, they can't work more than 18 hours per week or more than three hours on school days. They can't work more than eight hours per day on Saturday or Sunday and no more than six consecutive days in a pay week. When school is not in session, teens in this age group can work up to 40 hours per week.

Older Teens Have More Flexibility

Older teens—those ages 16 and 17—have more freedom in the workplace, but they still have some restrictions. Whether or not school is in session, they can't work more than 40 hours per week or eight hours per day. They must not work more than six consecutive days in a pay week.

Prohibited Occupations for Minor Workers

Teens of all ages are generally barred from doing dangerous jobs, such as those involving hazardous materials or power-driven machines. Here is the full list of prohibited occupations or situations, according to the State of New Jersey Labor and Workforce Development:

  • No minor under 16 years of age shall be employed, permitted or suffered to work in, about, or in connection with power-driven machinery.
  • No minor under 18 years of age shall be employed, permitted or suffered to work in, about, or in connection with the following:
    • The manufacture or packing of paints, colors, white lead, or red lead
    • The handling of dangerous or poisonous acids or dyes; injurious quantities of toxic or noxious dust, gases, vapors, or fumes.
    • Work involving exposure to benzol or any benzol compound which is volatile or which can penetrate the skin.
    • The manufacture, transportation, or use of explosives or highly inflammable substances.
    • Oiling, wiping, or cleaning machinery in motion or assisting therein.
    • Operation or helping in the operation of power-driven woodworking machinery; provided, that apprentices operating under conditions of bona fide apprenticeship may operate such machines under competent instruction and supervision.
    • Grinding, abrasive, polishing or buffing machines; provided, that apprentices operating under conditions of bona fide apprenticeship may grind their own tools.
    • Punch presses or stamping machines if the clearance between the ram and the dye or the stripper exceeds 1/4 inch.
    • Cutting machines having a guillotine action.
    • Corrugating, crimping, or embossing machines.
    • Paper lace machines.
    • Dough brakes or mixing machines in bakeries or cracker machinery
    • Calender rolls or mixing rolls in rubber manufacturing.
    • Centrifugal extractors, or mangles in laundries or dry cleaning establishments
    • Ore reduction works, smelters, hot rolling mills, furnaces, foundries, forging shops, or any other place in which the heating, melting, or heat treatment of metals is carried on.
    • Mines or quarries.
    • Steam boilers carrying a pressure in excess of 15 pounds.
    • Construction work of any kind, except in the construction of affordable housing as a volunteer for a nonprofit organization as provided in section 1 of P.L.1994, c. 82 (C. 34:2-21.17d).
    • Fabrication or assembly of ships.
    • Operation or repair of elevators or other hoisting apparatus.
    • The transportation of payrolls other than within the premises of the employer
  • No minor under 18 years of age shall be employed, permitted, or suffered to work in, about, or in connection with any establishment where alcoholic liquors are distilled, rectified, compounded, brewed, manufactured, bottled, or are sold for consumption on the premises, or in a pool or billiard room; provided, however, this paragraph shall not apply to minors 16 years of age or over, employed as pinsetters, lane attendants, or busboys in public bowling alleys as provided in section 3 of P.L.1940, c. 153 (C. 34:2-21.3) or to minors employed in theatrical productions where alcoholic beverages are sold on the premises. 
  • No minor under 18 years of age shall be employed, permitted, or suffered to work in any place of employment, or at any occupation hazardous or injurious to the life, health, safety, or welfare of such minor, as such occupation shall, from time to time, be determined and declared by the Commissioner of Labor to be hazardous or injurious to the life, health, safety, or welfare of such minor, after a public hearing thereon and after such notice as the commissioner may by regulation prescribe.