Minors will often work in foodservice as part-time or full-time work during school breaks. You might wonder what restaurant labor laws apply to you as a business owner and your employees. Like all businesses, the foodservice industry must abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act when employing all people, especially minors. While you are permitted to employ minors in your restaurant, you must make exceptions in the types and hours of work that you give people under the age of 18.

Federal Child Labor Laws 

The federal child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) were enacted to ensure that when minors work, they are provided safe conditions and fair wages for their work. These rules were created to ensure that when young people work; their health, well-being, and education are not jeopardized. On top of these laws, you must also adhere to rules regarding the employment of minors in a restaurant.

Who Can I Employ in My Restaurant? 

  • The minimum age of employment varies by state in the United States. In some states, minors as young as 14 years can begin working for limited periods of time and under specified conditions. In most states, these limitations shift slightly when the minor turns 16 years of age. 
  • According to the Child Rules for Employing Youth in Restaurants, children under the age of 13 may not work in any type of non-agricultural occupation, including food service establishments. 
  • It is generally accepted that once a minor turns 16 years of age, they can work several types of jobs with full-time hours in your restaurant.

Hour Limitations by Age 

These hour limitations are set by the Child Rules for Employing Youth in Restaurants provision of the FLSA.

Age 14 15 16 17
Max Work Per Week Allowed

18 hours – school weeks

40 hours – non-school weeks

18 hours – school weeks

40 hours – non-school weeks

Unlimited Unlimited
Max Work Per School Day Allowed 3 hours (including Fridays) 3 hours (including Fridays)
Max Work Hours Per Non-School Day 8 hours 8 hours
Time of Day Allowed 7 am – 7 pm except between June 1 and Labor Day (extends to 9 pm) 7 am – 7 pm except between June 1 and Labor Day (extends to 9 pm) Any Any

Food Service Jobs Allowed for Minors

There are several jobs that minors can perform in your restaurant or café. Businesses will often hire minors for these tasks to provide valuable work experience and gain help during busy seasons.

Food Service Jobs Disallowed for Minors

Minors cannot work in any job that has been deemed a Hazardous Order by the Secretary of Labor. Some of these hazards that relate to food service are: 

  • Power-driven meat processing machines, commercial mixers, certain power-driven bakery machines. This includes operation, feed, set-up, adjusting, repairing, or cleaning any of these machines or disassembled parts 
  • Operating motor vehicles 
  • Balers and compactors 

For the full list of hazardous occupations and more information, see the Occupations Banned for All Minors. 

In addition, there are tasks that minors aged 14-15 cannot perform apart from the hazardous jobs listed above.

How Can You Be Sure You’re Following the Law? 

It can be difficult to wade through the restaurant labor laws and understand what you can and cannot do in your business. When employing minors, it’s even more important to understand and follow these laws. Here are a few tips to ensuring that you and your employees are covered under these laws.

Stay Informed

Be sure that your management and leadership teams are informed of the tasks that a minor can and cannot do in your foodservice establishment.

Consider the Laws

When scheduling a minor for shifts, consult your state laws on the limitations of hours that they can work.

Verify with Documents

Always verify a minor’s age with a birth certificate or driver’s license when hiring – it is not enough to just take anyone’s word for it.

Alcohol Serving Laws

Check your state’s laws before letting a worker under 18 serve alcohol in your foodservice establishment.

Keep Strict Hours

Make sure that your shift managers are strict on hours scheduled and worked for any employees who are minors.

Information and Resources 

Are you still looking for information on employing minors in your restaurant? The government resource, Youth Rules offers information on state and federal labor laws for minors. This is a great place to quickly check if you are up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations for employing minors. 

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