United States: Hiring Underage Workers? Take A Minute To Read NH’s Youth Employment Laws

While the weather may not feel like it yet, summer will be here before long and businesses may be looking to hire youths under 18 years old. Youth labor laws were adopted by the federal government (FLSA) and states to protect children and generally prohibit minors from working excessive hours, operating unsafe machinery, and working in dangerous conditions. Please note that if your business is covered by Federal wage and hour law, the FLSA applies along with more restrictive rules limiting the number of hours a youth is allowed to work: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/youthlabor/enforcement.htm.

I've listed the most important NH youth employment laws as a reminder of their specificity and also of the fact that violations of youth employment laws come with statutory monetary penalties that cannot be waived by the NH DOL: if you are in violation, then you must pay.

Youth Employment Certificate.  

If you are employing a youth between the ages of 12-15, then this certificate must be on file at the business within 3 days of the youth's first day of employment. Youths under 12 years old may not work except for his or her parents, grandparents, or guardian, or at "casual" work (employment of no more than 3 calendar days for any one employer) or in door-to-door newspaper delivery.

To get a Youth Employment Certificate, the youth should ask the employer to complete an Employer's Request for Child Labor and then give it back to the youth to bring to his or her local school or superintendent's office. Employer Request for Child Labor.  The School or superintendent's office will issue the Youth Employment Certificate after it has:

(1) confirmed the age of the youth (birth certificate, passport, baptismal certificate, immigration record or a religious or official record bearing the youth's age),

(2) reviewed employer's request to ensure that the minor's employment is permitted by law, and

(3) reviewed the student's school record to ensure the student's academic performance level has been met. The school then provides the Youth Employment Certificate to the youth who brings the completed form to his or her employer.  The school also provides a copy of the documentation to the NH Department of Labor.

A Youth Certificate is not required if the youth works for his or her parents, grandparents or guardian, is performing "casual" work, or is working as farm labor. While the definition of "casual" work is vague, it may be interpreted to include performing yard work for neighbors, for example.

If the youth is between the ages of 16-17, then the business must have on file at the business, on the first day of the youth's employment, written permission by the parent or guardian stating that the youth is allowed to work. Parental Permission Form.

Hours of Work Restrictions.

In calculating the number of hours of employment, the business cannot use its own work week, but must use the statutory work week – Sunday through Saturday.

For youths aged between 12-15, they cannot be employed: during school hours, before 7am or after 9pm, more than 3 hours per day on school days, more than 8 hours per day on non-school days, more than 23 hours per week during school weeks, or more than 48 hours per week during non-school weeks.

For youths aged between 16-17 who are enrolled in school (including home schooled), they cannot be employed: more than 6 consecutive days nor more than 30 hours per week during the school calendar week (Sunday through Saturday), more than 6 consecutive days nor more than 48 hours per week during school vacation weeks or summer vacation (June 1st through Labor Day), more than 10 hours per day in manufacturing, more than 10 ¼ hours per day in manual or mechanical labor, more than 8 hours per night (if working at night).

For youths aged between 16-17 who are not enrolled in school, they cannot be employed: more than 10 hours per day nor more than 48 hours per week at manual or mechanical labor in a manufacturing establishment, more than 10 ¼ hours per day nor more than 54 hours per week at manual or mechanical labor in any other employment that is not exempt by statute, and night work is restricted to no more than 8 hours per shift and 48 hours per week.

Prohibited Occupations.

Youths aged between 14-15 are prohibited from working in: any manufacturing occupation, any mining occupation, processing occupation (such as filleting of fish, dressing poultry, cracking nuts or laundering by commercial laundry and dry cleaning), public messenger service, occupations in connection with warehousing and storage, communications and public utilities and construction. Also, youths in this age group cannot work, for example, around boilers or engine rooms, cooking (except at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars, or cafeteria serving counters) and baking, in freezers and meat coolers, or loading and unloading goods.

No youth can be employed in a "hazardous occupation" as defined by the FLSA: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=48d6ee3b99d3b3a97b1bf189e1757786&rgn=div5&view=text&node=29: Those hazardous occupations include, but are not limited to: driving or acting as outside helper on a motor vehicle, logging and sawmilling, operation of power-driven woodworking machines, work in slaughtering, meat packing and rendering establishments, work in roofing operation, work in places were alcoholic beverages are manufactured, packaged or sold (except in drug stores or retail food stores), and any work over 30 feet above floor, ground, or water level.


The penalty for violation of federal child labor law is up to a $10,000 civil penalty for each violation. The penalty for violation of N.H. youth employment laws can include a misdemeanor offense and may include an assessment of a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500 for each violation. Before embarking on hiring a youth this summer, be sure that you are clear as to the occupational and hourly restrictions to ensure that your business is in compliance with youth employment laws.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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