Maine labor laws for minors protect working people under 18 years of age. The Maine Department of Labor administers these laws, and the state also follows federal Fair Labor Standards Act guidelines. Maine businesses may be covered by state law, federal law or both.
Department representatives periodically inspect businesses to ensure adherence to these laws – employers who are in violation may incur severe penalties. When both state and federal laws apply, an employer must follow that which most protects the minor.
Federal Employment Laws and Child Labor
Before the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 was enacted, many children worked in dangerous conditions for hours with no breaks most days of the week. The FSLA regulates federal laws regarding the employment of children, depending on various factors, including school hours, work nature and parental involvement. The FSLA states that the minimum age to work in non-agricultural occupations is:
- 18 years in hazardous occupations.
- 16 years in non-hazardous occupations.
- 14 years for limited occupations, with restrictions on work conditions and hours.
In agricultural occupations, the minimum ages are:
- 16 years, including hazardous jobs, with no restrictions on work hours.
- 14 years in agricultural jobs outside school hours.
- Any age in non-hazardous jobs outside of school hours with parental consent. The FLSA considers certain conditions such as farm size, work nature and job duration.
- Minors under 14 cannot work, with the exception of planting, cultivating or harvesting field crops. When doing so, they must not be in direct contact with hazardous machinery or substances.
Penalties for Violating the FSLA
If an employer violates federal child labor laws, they face harsh penalties: $10,000 for each worker who was the subject of the violation and $50,000 for each violation that causes a minor employee's death or severe injury. Fines may double if the offense is repeated or willful, in which case the employer faces imprisonment for a maximum of six months.
Work Permits for Minors in the State of Maine
According to Maine state labor laws for minors, all workers under 16 must have a work permit, including home-schoolers. They must get a new permit with each new job until they reach 16, even if they work for their parents. Minors can have only one permit during the school year, but can get two when school is not in session. To apply, the minor must be:
- Enrolled in school.
- Not frequently under suspension or truant.
- Currently passing most courses.
Once the minor has a job offer, they must take proof of age to the office of the superintendent of schools, who certifies academic standing, along with parental permission. They cannot work until the state Bureau of Labor Standards approves the permit request.
Information Needed for Employer's Records
Maine employers must have the minor's stamped, approved work permit on file and keep accurate payroll records for workers under 18 that show:
- The time they started work.
- The total hours worked.
- The time they finished work every day.
Work Rules for 16- and 17-Year-Olds
Maine allows children who are 16 years old and 17 years old to work in non-hazardous jobs, such as those in bakeries, dry-cleaning establishments, garages and laundry facilities. They can also work in places such as amusement parks, arcades, bowling alleys, hotels and motels, among others. When school is in session, their work time is limited. They cannot work:
- More than six days in a row.
- Before 7 a.m. on school days.
- Before 5 a.m. on non-school days.
- After 10:15 p.m. on nights before school days, but can work up to midnight otherwise.
During the school year, the minor cannot work more than six hours on school days or 10 hours on holidays, vacation days or workshop days. They can work up to eight hours on the last day of the school week.
Minors cannot work more than 24 hours a week overall or more than 50 hours a week when the school week is less than three days or is the last week of the school calendar. When school is not session, the minor must not work over 10 hours a day or more than 50 hours a week.
Work Rules for 14- and 15-Year-Olds
Fifteen-year-olds who wish to work in Maine can work in non-hazardous jobs such as dining rooms and kitchens. They can also work in lobbies and offices of hotels and motels, but they cannot work in room service or make deliveries to rooms. Fourteen-year-olds can work in non-hazardous restaurant jobs and retail, gas stations and campgrounds. Minors 14 and 15 cannot work:
- More than six consecutive days.
- Before 7 a.m.
- After 7 p.m. while school is in session.
- After 9 p.m. during summer vacation.
They cannot work more than three hours on a school day or more than 18 hours a week during school sessions. When there is no school, they cannot work more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours a week.
Maine Child Labor Laws
An employer who violates child labor laws in Maine faces fines ranging from $250 to $50,000 per violation. Employers cannot threaten, fire, discriminate or retaliate against employees who report child labor violations. Individuals may file complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission at 207-624-6290.
Suspected child labor violations can be submitted to the Maine Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division at 54 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0054, or by calling 207-623-7900. If the business is under the jurisdiction of the FSLA, violations can be reported to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division using its online form.
- Maine Department of Labor: Summary of Labor Laws
- Maine Department of Labor: State of Maine Work Permit
- Maine Department of Labor: Employers Guide to Youth Employment
- United States Department of Agriculture: 2017 State Agriculture Overview: Maine
- Press Herald: New Maine Law Expands Job Opportunities for Teens
- Press Herald: As Businesses Face a Labor Crunch, State Pushes to Build Teen Workforce
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.