Summer Employment Tips:  Special Rules for Employing Minors

Employers who hire high school-aged employees for summer jobs should be aware that the employment of minors is regulated by state and federal child labor laws. Depending on the age of the minor, different rules may affect the types of jobs they can perform, the hours they can work and whether breaks are required.  Generally, minors who are under the age of 14 may not be employed in nonagricultural jobs unless the job is exempt from regulation (such as newspaper delivery, babysitting, or working in a family business).

Work Permits:  Some states require minors to obtain work permits.  In Iowa, only minors who are 14 or 15 years of age must have a work permit.  Iowa employers must submit a copy of the completed permit form to the Iowa Division of Labor within 3 days of the employee’s first day of work.  These permits can be obtained from the Iowa Division of Labor website at:

Permitted and Prohibited Work:  Minors can only perform work that is specifically permitted under the law and must not be allowed to do jobs that are identified as a “prohibited occupation.” Both the “permitted” and “prohibited” occupation rules must be reviewed for 14 and 15 years old workers.  As an example, permitted work for minors 14-15 years of age includes, but is not limited to, office and clerical work, retail and food service, pool lifeguard, and limited errand and clean-up work. Prohibited work for this age group includes such things as manufacturing or warehouse work, operating or setting up certain heavy equipment, and any work involving scaffolding or ladder use. Once a minor reaches 16 years of age, an employer must generally only be concerned with the jobs identified as prohibited occupations under the law.  The rules are relaxed for this older group, but certain hazardous jobs are still off limits.  If you have any concerns about whether a young employee on your team is doing permitted or prohibited work, these rules should be reviewed.

Hours of Work:  Although 16 and 17-year olds can generally work any hours during the summer months, there are tighter limits on younger workers.  For example, under both Iowa and federal law a person under the age of 16 must not be employed before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day when work hours may be extended to 9:00 p.m.  Both federal and Iowa law also limit the total number of hours these younger employees can work (on non-school days) to no more than 8 hours in one day (not counting breaks), and no more than 40 hours in one week. Additional restrictions will apply while school is in session and may apply under specific state laws as well.

Breaks: State laws will generally be the source of specific break time requirements for minors.  Under Iowa law, if a minor under the age of 16 is employed for a period of 5 hours or more each day, a break of at least 30 minutes must be given during the shift. (Under federal wage and hour standards break times that are at least 30 minutes in length are not required to be paid).

Since both Federal and state laws affect child labor standards, including minimum wage requirements, differences between the two sets of standards can arise.  Where the two laws differ, employers must follow the law that provides the greatest protection to its minor employees.

If you have questions about these rules, feel free to contact Maureen B. Heffernan at 252-0020 or email Maureen at