South Carolina's Teen Labor Law

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Companies in South Carolina that hire minors, individuals under 18 years of age, must adhere to the South Carolina child labor laws. However, in some instances, particularly regarding meal and rest breaks, the Palmetto State follows the U.S. Department of Labor's Fair Labor Standards Act.

Child Labor Regulations in South Carolina

According to South Carolina Child Labor Statute 41-13-20, minors under the age of 14 cannot be employed in the state, as that is defined as oppressive child labor.

But there are exceptions to this rule:

  • Minors under 14 years old may work in any aspect of the entertainment industry, including as an actor or performer in film, TV, theater or on radio.
  • Children who are 12 and 13 may work at nonhazardous farm jobs with written parental consent during non-school sessions.
  • Twelve and 13 year olds may do farm work at an agricultural establishment where their parents work.
  • Minors of any age can work at a business their parents own and operate.
  • Minors of any age can deliver newspapers.

The exemption regarding parental supervision is not valid in occupations that are hazardous under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) 17 Hazardous Occupations.

When Can Minors Aged 14 and 15 Work?

Under South Carolina state law, minors aged 14 and 15 under can work up to three hours a day and 18 hours a week during normal school sessions during the standard academic calendar year between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. If they attend school, their work hours likely would be between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 pm.

During summer break, or non-school sessions, they may work up to eight hours a day, 40 hours a week. Their hours of work must be between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Where Can Minors Age 14 and 15 Work?

Minors aged 14 and 15 have fewer options than older teens do, but they can still take on a variety of jobs such as:

  • Busing tables.
  • Car washing.
  • Cashiering.
  • Custodial duties.
  • Food service.
  • Delivery service (driving excluded).

Prohibited Occupations for Teens

Occupations and activities they cannot take part in include:

  • Car repairs.
  • Food preparation.
  • Public utility duties.
  • Warehousing and storage.
  • Using scaffolding or ladders.
  • Operating a lawn mower.
  • Using a grinder.
  • Driving a golf cart.

When and Where Can Minors 16 and 17 Work?

Minors in South Carolina, ages 16 and older, do not have the hours and scheduling restrictions that minors 15 and younger do. They may work as many daily and weekly hours as their position requires, or as their employer asks.

Teens who are at least 16 can work in any job or perform any task with the exception of those that the federal law deems hazardous, such as:

  • Storing or manufacturing explosives.
  • Driving a vehicle or being an outside helper who rides on the outside of the cab to deliver or transport goods.
  • Coal mining and other types of mining.
  • Using power-driven woodworking machines.
  • Using power-driven hoisting apparatus.
  • Using power-driven metal-forming machines.
  • Using power-driven punching machines.
  • Using power-driven shearing machines.
  • Using power-driven bakery machines.
  • Using power-driven paper product machines.
  • Using power-driven band saws, circular saws and guillotine shears.
  • Logging or sawmilling.
  • Radioactive substance exposure and exposure to ionizing radiations.
  • Meat processing or packing.
  • Manufacturing tile, brick or other like products.
  • Demolition, wrecking and ship-breaking operations.
  • Roofing operations.
  • Excavation operations.

Meal and Rest Breaks in South Carolina

While employers are required to provide a meal and rest breaks in some states, South Carolina does not require this of businesses. This doesn’t mean employers are off the hook entirely. If they offer breaks, they must follow FLSA guidelines.

While the DOL does not require employers to pay for, or even have, lunch breaks, it does require all employers to pay employees for their work time and the shorter breaks they may take during the work day.

However, if a company provides a longer break, and the worker is relieved of their job duties during that break, employers do not have to pay the worker for their time away from the job. Employers can pay employees for lunch breaks at their discretion.

FLSA Meal and Rest Breaks

According to the FLSA, companies must pay workers for the hours they are on the job, including short periods of time that the business they work for deems a “break.” If an employee works during their lunch break, they must be paid for that time.

For example, when a receptionist covers the phones during lunch, they must be paid, as must a plumber who eats while driving to the next client.

Employers must also pay for the short breaks that a worker takes during the course of the work day. Typically, these breaks last up to 20 minutes.

Companies and Bona Fide Meal Breaks

Companies do not have to pay workers for bona fide lunch breaks. During this type of break, the worker is relieved of their duties in order to eat a meal. The company does not need to allow the worker to leave business grounds to eat, and the break is bona fide if the worker does not work during that time period.

A bona fide lunch break generally lasts half an hour, although depending on the circumstances, shorter breaks may also be considered bona fide.

Rules regarding lunch breaks apply only if the employer allows them, which they are not required to do. The FLSA requires only that a company pay a worker for a specific time, even if it is a break – it does not require a business to offer workers breaks in the first place.