Texas labor laws for minors apply to individuals under 18 years of age. Generally, a minor can work in the state starting at age 14. Texas child labor laws apply to part-time and full-time employees.
A minor does not need a work permit to perform work for an employer. The employer is required to follow state laws and rules set by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
Hour Restrictions for Minors
Work hours for minors ages 14 and 15 are restricted. Texas does not restrict the number of hours or times of a day that 16- and 17-year-olds may work.
Texas Employment Laws
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All businesses in the state of Texas are subject to state laws, but only those businesses covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are subject to federal laws.
Businesses with workers engaged in interstate commerce, which produce goods for interstate commerce or handle, sell or otherwise work on goods or materials moved in or produced for such commerce, are covered by the FLSA. When a business is in doubt as to whether it should follow federal or state guidelines, it should follow the stricter guidelines.
Applying for a Hardship Waiver
An employer can apply for a hardship waiver of the hour restrictions for a minor age 14 or 15 if it's necessary for the child to work to support themselves or their immediate family.
The application process is described in Texas Workforce Commission Section 817.22. A hardship application has to contain full details of work, including rate of pay, hours to be worked and expected duration of employment.
The application must also contain a written statement by the principal of the child's school. The statement goes to the advisability of allowing the child to work the hours identified. A waiver is valid for one year unless established for a shorter period.
Prohibited Occupations for Minors
The FLSA regulates the types of jobs that minors can perform. Prohibited occupations for 14- and 15-year-olds usually include jobs that could pose a danger to the health and well-being of minors, including:
- Manufacturing, mining or processing occupations.
- Operation of motor vehicles or helpers on such vehicles.
- Public messenger service.
- Warehousing and storage.
- Cooking and baking.
Prohibited occupations for 16- and 17-year-olds include jobs:
- Connected with mining, including coal mining.
- Involving logging operations, sawmill operations, forest firefighting, forest fire prevention operations, and lumber tract and forestry service occupations.
- Involving driving motor vehicles and outside helpers on any public road or highway, in excavations or in and about any place where logging or sawmill operations are in progress. An example of an outside helper is a person riding on the outside of a vehicle to pick up trash bins.
Certain occupations have apprentice or student-learner exemptions for employment for 16- and 17-year-olds. These include:
- Operating or assisting to operate power-drive woodworking machines.
- Operating or assisting to operate power-driven meat processing machines and slaughtering, meat and poultry packing, processing or rendering.
- Roofing operations and work on or about a roof.
Youth Minimum Wage
In Texas, the state minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. An employee under the age of 20 can be paid a lower minimum wage of $4.25 per hour during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer.
An employer is prohibited from taking any action to displace other employees to hire employees at the youth minimum wage. It is also prohibited for an employer to engage in partial displacements, such as reducing employees’ hours, wage or employment benefits in order to hire employees at the youth minimum wage.
Minimum Wages for Tipped Employees
An employer must pay a tipped employee at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages. This is true even if the employer considers tips as part of wages. A tipped employee is a person engaged in an occupation in which they customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips.
An employer who elects to use the tip credit provision is required to inform the employee in advance. They must be able to show the employee receives at least the applicable minimum wage for the state when direct wages and the tip credit allowance are combined. If the employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.
Employees must retain all of their tips except if the employees participate in a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement. If an employer provides board and lodging and other facilities for the employee’s benefit, these may be considered part of wages. The cost of the board, lodging and other facilities must be reasonable cost or fair value.
Complaints and Violations
If a person observes an immediate danger to a child, they should call the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Wage and Hour Department at 800-832-9243. If the child is not in immediate danger of injury, the person should submit a child labor complaint form by mail or fax to the TWC Wage and Hour Department. The form can be found on the website of the TWC.
TWC’s Wage and Hour Department investigates child labor law complaints and issues a preliminary determination to the employer. A violation of child labor law is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days' incarceration and a fine up to $2,000.
Employing a child to sell or solicit is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000. An employer who violates child labor laws can also be assessed an administrative penalty by TWC up to $10,000 per violation.
Defenses to Child Labor Prosecution
It may be a defense against prosecution where a person employed a child who did not meet the minimum age requirement for a type of employment, but they relied in good faith on an apparently valid certificate of age form.
The Texas Attorney General can seek injunctive relief in district court against an employer who repeatedly violates child labor law requirements. This means the Attorney General can request that the court issue an injunction to temporarily restrain the employer from taking certain actions, such as hiring minors.
- Texas Workforce Commission: Texas Child Labor Law
- U.S. Department of Labor: Employment/Age Certificate
- U.S. Department of Labor: Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act
- Texas Administrative Code: Commission Rule Section 817.22
- Texas Penal Code: Title 3, Penalties, Chapter 12, Penalties
- U.S. Department of Labor: Consolidated Minimum Wage Table
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.