Department of Labor & Industry Outlines Labor Laws for Children and Summer Jobs

As summer break approaches and teenagers seek employment opportunities, Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Nancy A. Walker is reminding Pennsylvanians of the protections afforded to workers under the age of 18 under Pennsylvania’s Child Labor Act.

“As businesses increasingly rely on young workers to fill job vacancies, it is crucial to remember that unlawful employment practices will not be tolerated and may result in fines, administrative violations, and, in some cases, criminal convictions,” said Secretary Walker. “As we monitor a sharp increase in child labor violations in Pennsylvania, we cannot stress how important it is to L&I to invest in protecting our young workers, ensuring their safety over profits and holding bad actors accountable.”

Pennsylvania’s Child Labor Act, enforced by L&I’s Bureau of Labor Law Compliance (BLLC), protects the health, safety, and welfare of minors employed in the Commonwealth by limiting employment in certain establishments and occupations, restricting the hours of work, regulating work conditions, and requiring work permits for children hired to fill a position. 

In 2023, BLLC investigators experienced a 43 percent increase in child labor cases, up from 402 in 2022 to 574 in 2023. Overall, BLLC investigated more than 5,200 complaints of alleged labor law violations — a 27% increase in investigations compared to about 4,100 conducted in 2022.

Pennsylvania’s Child Labor Act has distinct provisions for three age categories: under 14, 14-15, and 16-17. All minors under 16 must have a written statement by the minor’s parent or guardian acknowledging the duties and hours of employment and granting permission to work. Minors are also required to obtain a work permit from their school district.

Except for minors who work in newspaper delivery, no minors may work more than six consecutive days. In addition, all minors must be provided a 30-minute meal period on or before five consecutive hours of work. Full- or part-time minors must be paid at least minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Children under age 14 may only work under certain circumstances, including on a family farm or in domestic service, such as babysitting, or performing yard work or household chores. Employment as caddies, newspaper carriers and – with special permits –entertainment performers may also be permissible.

When school is not in session, 14 and 15-year-olds may only work between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and no more than eight hours a day, or 40 hours a week. For some occupations, such as newspaper delivery, caddies and some farm work, different standards may apply. 

When school is in session, 14 and 15-year-olds may only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and no more than three hours a day on school days, or 18 hours per school week. This work must not interfere with school attendance. Different standards may apply for non-school days.

When school is not in session, 16 and 17-year-olds may only work between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. and no more than 10 hours a day, or 48 hours a week. Employers may not compel minors in this age group to work beyond 45 hours a week

When school is in session, 16 and 17-year-olds may only work between 6 a.m. and 12 a.m. and no more than eight hours a day on school days, or 28 hours per school week. This work must not interfere with school attendance. Different standards may apply for non-school days.

Minors of all ages are prohibited from obtaining employment in an establishment designated as hazardous – a provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its regulations. Occupations deemed as hazardous or that require the use of dangerous equipment, weapons or devices, include the following:

  • Crane operation
  • Electrical work
  • Excavation
  • Roofing
  • Woodworking
  • Wrecking and demolition

A full list of prohibited occupations for all minors in Pennsylvania is available on L&I’s website.