Restrictions in the Tennessee Child Labor Laws

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Throughout the United States, minors may be employed in limited capacities when compared to the everyday working duties of an adult. The capacities in which a minor may be employed vary from state to state, with some states heavily restricting the age at which minors may work, the hours worked, and the type of work they are allowed to perform. Additionally, minors are required to provide proof of their age and parental consent to work. Compared with many other states, Tennessee minor labor laws are relatively lax.

Understanding Tennessee Minor Labor Laws

In Tennessee, a minor does not need a work permit to become employed. However, a minor must prove that she is old enough to work by providing a valid form of identification to her prospective employer, such as a driver’s license or passport.

Tennessee minor labor laws for adolescents ages 14 and 15 are slightly different from those for adolescents ages 16 and 17. Jobs in Tennessee for 14-year-old and 15-year-old minors are limited to those that can be performed outside school hours. In Tennessee, 14- and 15-year-old minors are restricted to the following working hours when school is in session:

  • No more than three hours on school days.
  • No more than eight hours on non-school days.
  • No more than 18 hours per week, or 23 hours per week, if the job is part of a work experience program.
  • No work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. 

When school is not in session, 14- and 15-year-old minors may work up to eight hours per day and up to 40 hours per week. For those who are 16 and 17 years old, the rules are similar but with one significant difference: While school is in session, a 16-or 17-year-old teenager may work between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on school nights and until 12:00 a.m. on non-school nights. Parents may sign consent forms allowing their 16- and 17-year-old minor to work past 12:00 a.m.

Jobs in Tennessee for 14-Year-Old Teens

Tennessee minor labor laws allow minors as young as 14 to become employed “on the books.” Typical jobs in Tennessee for 14-year-old and older adolescents include operating cash registers, stocking shelves and performing front-of-house duties in restaurants, such as bussing and hosting.

In Tennessee, minors are prohibited from working in the following roles and industries:

  • Logging and milling.
  • Mining.
  • Animal slaughter.
  • Any job that involves operating a motor vehicle.
  • Roofing.
  • Selling or serving alcoholic beverages.
  • Any role that involves operating heavy machinery.
  • Demolition.

Minors’ Rights in the Workplace

In the workplace, minors have the same rights that adults have. These rights are guaranteed by federal laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. They include employee protections like:

  • The right to be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
  • The right to a harassment-free work environment.
  • The right to a discrimination-free work environment.
  • The right to join a labor union (with parental consent to do so).
  • The right to act as a whistleblower.
  • The right to a safe workplace that complies with all applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.

Just like adult employees, minors have the right to take legal action against their employers for violations of federal and state labor laws. However, the minor’s parent or legal guardian must file any violation claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development on the minor’s behalf if the minor is not emancipated.

Tennessee Labor Laws: Breaks

Although federal law does not require employers to provide any meal or rest breaks for employees, many states do require employers to provide breaks. Tennessee is one of these states. Under Tennessee labor laws, breaks are required for all employees who work six or more consecutive hours. These breaks must be at least 30 minutes in duration. As long as employees are fully excused from all work duties during these breaks, they are not required to be paid for this time.

Tennessee law does not require employers to provide rest breaks, but many employers do so anyway. Short breaks, defined as breaks lasting up to 20 minutes, generally must be paid. The Tennessee labor law breaks requirement applies to minors as well as to adult employees.