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Employing Minors in New Jersey

— Overview —
New Jersey’s Child Labor Law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, regulate the activities of workers under the age of 18 by limiting their daily and weekly hours, their actual hours of work, and the types of work they can perform. This document explains these restrictions and provides general guidance to employers looking to hire minors.

— Background —
Under New Jersey’s Child Labor Law, N.J.S.A. 34:2-21.1 et seq., at the age of 14, children can begin working in most workplaces like offices, stores, and restaurants (with some commonsense exclusions for prisons, mines/quarries, jobs involving chemicals, jobs operating heavy machinery, and those serving alcohol, etc.). At 16, the list of permitted occupations grows to include operating power-driven machinery such as lawn mowers. Once a child reaches the age of 18, they are considered an adult and have the option of doing virtually any job.

Employers have certain obligations and restrictions when employing minors that they don’t have with adults. For instance, while New Jersey does not have a mandatory break law for adult workers, it does require that employers provide minors with a 30-minute meal break after five hours of work. Additionally, minors under the age of 16 can’t work more than three hours a day during school days, and more than 18 hours a week on school weeks. While employers can increase hours during vacations and summers, they are typically limited to only employing minors for a maximum of eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.

However, Governor Murphy signed P.L. 2021 c. 149 into law on July 1, 2021 expanding working hours for teenagers for the summer to combat the hiring crisis facing many small businesses. Under the law, minors can work up to 50 hours per week beginning on the last day of the minor’s school year through Labor Day 2021. In order to work the expanded summer hours, minors need written permission from a parent or legal guardian. Minors remain restricted on how early and late they may work (7 a.m. – 7 p.m. for 14 and 15-year-olds, and 6 a.m. – 11 p.m. for 16 and 17-year-olds).

Generally, the New Jersey law falls in line with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, but where there is a conflict, the more restrictive law applies.

— Work Restrictions —
At what age is it legal for minors to begin working?

Although it is legal for minors to work as newspaper carriers and in some horticultural jobs at age 12, 14 is generally the age when most minors get their first jobs because they can do all of the jobs a 12-year-old can, plus many functions like the following:

  • Clerical and office jobs in industrial wholesale, retail, service, and professional establishment
  • Hotel jobs
  • Salespersons
  • Delivery jobs other than with a motor vehicle
  • Newspaper and magazine delivery over non-residential routes
  • Restaurant jobs
  • Mercantile store jobs
  • Supermarket and food store jobs
  • Amusement industry jobs
  • Standard office type machine operators
  • Standard domestic type machine operators
  • Hospital and health agency jobs
  • Library attendants
  • Professional assistants
  • Counselors at camps, beach attendants, lifeguards, caddies, pinsetters
  • Domestic helpers, maids, cooks, cleaners, babysitters, janitors
  • Singers, models, entertainers, dancers, and theatrical work.

Do more job restrictions get lifted as minors age?
Yes. Once a minor reaches age16, they can do all of the jobs a 14-year-old can do plus they can operate certain factory machines, power lawn movers, power tools, tractors, and other machines. That said, until a worker reaches the age of 18, they cannot operate any hazardous machinery, be exposed to hazardous materials, or work in hazardous occupations. For instance, while 16-year-old minors can operate factory machines, they cannot operate punch presses or cutting machines. In addition, most construction jobs are still prohibited. Further guidance on the restrictions that still exist for 16-year-olds can be found by clicking here.

— First Steps in Employing Minors —
How does an employer go about hiring a minor?
Before the minor begins working, they must have an employment certificate (“working papers.”) The minor gets this by filling out the A300 employment certification form online or from the issuing officer of the local school district where the minor lives. If the minor is not a New Jersey resident, the paper can come from the district where the employer is located.

The employer is responsible for completing the employment information section of the form which includes the name and address of the business, the type of business, the specific job title or duties that will be held by the minor, the minor’s hourly rate, whether the business is licensed for liquor, etc. The employer must also sign and date the Promise of Employment.

The minor then must have a physical or obtain a doctor’s note. The school district is responsible for performing the physical examination at no cost to the minor and verifying the minor’s age. Both are indicated on the employment certification form, as is parent/guardian permission that the minor can work. Once the form is fully completed, it is reviewed by the school’s issuing officer and an employment certificate or “working papers” are issued.

— Employer Obligations after Hiring —
Which notifications or posters are required?
Businesses employing minors are required to conspicuously post a Schedule of Hours that contains the name of the minor, the schedule of hours, clock in and clock out, mealtimes, total hours worked, and total hours allowed. A sample Schedule of Hours is available by clicking here.

Employers with workers under age 18 are also required to conspicuously post the New Jersey Child Labor Law Abstract, which provides important information such as the maximum number of hours a minor under 18 years old may work and the jobs that they cannot perform. For instance, a minor working in a deli may be able to take orders at the counter but would not be allowed to operate the meat slicer.

Are employers required to pay minors minimum wage?
Minors must be paid minimum wage ($12.00/hour in 2021) in the vast majority of industries including retail, food service, hotel/motel, beauty, cleaning/laundry, and light manufacturing.

Certain other places are not required to pay minimum wage as they are not covered under federal law. For instance, federal law exempts all amusement park workers from the minimum wage regardless of age. New Jersey exempts minor amusement park workers as well, provided they are not covered by other industries. So, a worker doing clerical work in the front office of an amusement park can be paid less than minimum wage but must be paid minimum wage if they are moved to a food service function since that type of work is specifically covered under minimum wage laws. Similar rules exist for nursing homes, summer camps, and libraries. In practice, most employers in these industries still elect to pay the minimum wage as a matter of fairness and to simplify bookkeeping.

In addition, employers should be aware that where tips are part of the pay, the sum of cash wages plus tips earned in a week, and meal credits (if meals are provided), divided by the number of hours worked during the same week, must amount to at least the minimum wage.

Do employers have to pay minors overtime?
No. By law minors cannot work more than 40 hours in a week, 8 hours a day, (even during vacations or summer months) and overtime is paid once a worker exceeds 40 hours.
Exceptions to this rule are only made during the summer of 2021 under P.L. 2021 c. 149 which allows minors to work up to 50 hours per week through Labor Day of 2021.

Are there any restrictions on the actual times a minor can work?
Yes. There are restrictions on how early and late a minor may work. These are 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. for 14 and 15-year-olds, and 6 a.m. – 11 p.m. for 16 and 17-year-olds). (Employers should be aware that they may have to furnish a note for minors with graduated driver’s licenses who are driving after 11 p.m. to return home after their shift ends.

Do minors need rest breaks?
Yes. While New Jersey does not have a mandatory break law for adult workers, it does require that employers provide minors with a 30-minute meal break after five hours of work.

— Penalties for Non-Compliance —
Under New Jersey state law, employers who violate child labor laws may be charged as much as $250 for the first violation and $500 for subsequent violations. An employer may also be fined up to $10,000 for every violation that is proven in a federal court.

— Other Resources —
Employer Guide about Working Papers
https://www.nj.gov/labor/forms_pdfs/lsse/MW-36.pdf

Federal Child Labor Laws
https://www.dol.gov/whd/childlabor.htm

New Jersey Child Labor Law
https://www.nj.gov/labor/wageandhour/tools-resources/laws/childlaborlaws.shtml

— For more information —
If you need additional information, please contact NJBIA’s Member Action Center at 1-800-499-4419, ext. 3 or member411@njbia.org.

 

This information should not be construed as constituting specific legal advice. It is intended to provide general information about this subject and general compliance strategies. For specific legal advice, NJBIA strongly recommends members consult with their attorney.