Child Labor Laws
For a print-ready version of this content, including additional appendices, download "Federal and State Labor Laws for Youth-Based Learning: Your Guide to Understanding the Opportunities Available in Work-Based Learning."
Laws Governing Youth in the Workplace
Federal and Oklahoma state laws that govern youth in the workplace pertain to the following:
- Work hours
- Permitted jobs
- Exceptions that create more opportunities when employers and students participate in work-based learning
What you need to know about labor laws:
- Both federal and state labor laws apply to youth in the workplace.
- When federal and state laws are different, the most restrictive law must be followed.
- The laws are designed to protect Oklahoma youth from exploitation and danger, not remove them from the workplace.
- Regulations for 14- and 15-year-old workers are more restrictive than for 16- and 17-year-old workers.
There are far more opportunities than restrictions, especially for students enrolled in Work-Based Learning programs!
- Individuals 18 years of age are considered adults in the regulations.
- 17 occupations are identified as Particularly Hazardous for the employment of minors between 16 and 18 years of age (these occupations are referred to as “Hazardous Occupations” or HO in this document). To see the list of HOs, download "Federal and State Labor Laws for Youth Work-Based Learning: Your Guide to Understanding the Opportunities Available in Work-Based Learning."
- Exemptions exist for students in occupational training programs for eight of the 17 HOs. No HO exceptions exist for 14- and 15-year-old students.
- Jobs in agriculture differ slightly from nonagricultural jobs.
Opportunities for 14- and 15-Year-Old Youth
All Oklahoma students who are 14 and 15 years of age must obtain a work permit (also known as employment certificate) before getting a job or participating in work-based learning. See Appendix A in "Federal and State Labor Laws for Youth Work-Based Learning."
- Maximum of 3 hours in a school day, but not during school hours
- Maximum of 18 hours in a school week
- Maximum of 8 hours on a non-school day
- Maximum of 40 hours in a non-school week
- One hour cumulative rest period for 8 consecutive hours worked or a 30-minute rest period for 5 consecutive hours worked
- The hours are between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.)
The jobs listed below are general occupations that are identified by regulations as appropriate for minors 14 and 15 years old. Most of the occupations listed below have specific regulations attached to them. Further clarification can be found in Appendices B and C in "Federal and State Labor Laws for Youth Work-Based Learning."
- Clerical work
- Work of intellectual or artistic creative nature
- Cooking with electric or gas grills (non-open flame)
- Cashiering, selling, modeling
- Price marking
- Bagging and carrying out customers’ orders
- Errand and delivery by foot, bicycle, public transportation
- Clean-up work (not including power-driven lawn maintenance equipment)
- Kitchen work
- Stocking product
Opportunities for 16- and 17-Year-Old Youth
- No restrictions on the hours or times once a minor reaches 16 years of age
- May work during school hours
Any non-hazardous occupation is permitted (see the list of hazardous occupations in "Federal and State Labor Laws for Youth Work-Based Learning," Appendix D.)
16- and 17-year-old students involved in work-based learning internships or apprenticeships are allowed to work in HOs #5, #8, #10, #12, #14, #16, #17 under certain conditions (See Appendix D in "Federal and State Labor Laws for Youth Work-Based Learning").
- Apprentices – The identified 8 exemptions apply when the following criteria are met:
- Apprenticeship is in a recognized apprentice trade
- Hazardous work is incidental to their training
- Hazardous work is intermittent and for short periods of time
- Hazardous work is under direct and close supervision
- Apprentice is registered with the Department of Labor or state apprenticeship agency
- Student-learners – The identified 8 exemptions apply when the following criteria are met:
- Student-learner is enrolled in a course of study and training in a cooperative vocational training program
- Student is employed under a written agreement which provides the following:
- The hazardous work is incidental to their training
- The hazardous work is intermittent and for short periods of time
- The hazardous work is under direct and close supervision
- Safety instruction shall be given at school and work
- A schedule of organized and progressive work process to be performed
- The agreement is signed by employer, school, student, and parent or guardians
U.S. Department of Labor - YouthRules
The U.S. Department of Labor's YouthRules website provides quick access to information about federal and state labor laws that apply to young workers. The website educates teens on the rules, and provides information for parents, educators, and employers. Note that Oklahoma's child labor laws mirror the federal regulations for 16 and 17 year olds, but are more restrictive than federal laws for 14- and 15-year old Oklahomans in the workforce.
Oklahoma Department of Labor - Child Labor Unit
The Child Labor website provides rules and regulations, frequently asked questions, forms, and other resources to help employers follow Oklahoma's child labor laws.