Legal Age to Work in North Carolina

Minimum Age to Work in NC

North Carolina (NC) Quick Reference Table
AgeSummary of Requirements
14-15Must possess a Youth Employment Certificate.Unable to work more than 18 hours per week or 3 hours per day when school is in session. May only work between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm.
16-17Must acquire a Youth Employment Certificate. Potentially dangerous occupation that can cause bodily injury or endanger the minor’s welfare are off-limits.
18-20Must be 18 to work in establishments that sell or serve alcohol for consumption
21Able to serve alcohol for consumption. No restrictions.

North Carolina Child Labor Laws

The North Carolina Department of Labor ensures safe and ethical work practices and conditions for minors in the state. Employers in the State of North Carolina may hire minors to perform daily responsibilities so long as the labor continues to promote the general well-being of the youths, and allows them to avoid hazardous situations. Hours and job limitations exist for the benefit of the workers and employers. With few allowances, the federal minimum wage applies to all NC youth workers.

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Minimum Age to Work in North Carolina

Though pre-teens and children may babysit or perform household chores for their neighbors, they remain below the state’s minimum working age requirement. North Carolina minors may officially join the workforce at 14, though there are restrictions on the types of positons they can hold. At age 16, there are fewer limits on the jobs minors may pursue, though they are still unable to perform hazardous tasks. Once an individual reaches 18 years of age, NC youth law restrictions cease to apply.

Hour Restrictions

The hours a North Carolina minor may work depends on their age and the current school session. High schoolers who are over 15 are unable to labor between hours of 11:00pm and 5:00am on a school night unless they have written permission from a parent and the principal of the school. The law prohibits Minors under 16 from working during school hours, or for more than 3 hours on a school day. They are also unable to work more than 18 hours a school week or 40 hours on a non-school week. All shifts must stay between 7:00am and 7:00pm during the school year. The evening deadline extends to 9:00pm between June 1st and Labor Day.

Though it remains up to the employer whether 16 and 17 year olds get breaks during shifts, the law requires younger minors to receive a 30 minute break for every five consecutive hours of labor. 

Work Certificates

All non-agricultural youth workers must obtain a work permit to begin employment. The document details duties, and place of employment, and bear the signatures of the minor, parent or guardian, employer, and the county designee. Workers must give the completed form to the employer on the first day of labor. The employer must then maintain the permit on file for up to two years after the departure of the minor employee or until the individual turns 20. Most minors receive work permits from their school administrators, but when school is out, they must learn how to get a work permit in the summer.

  • Do you need a work permit during summer?

All North Carolina minors must have a work permit before they can get a job.

  • Where can I get a work permit besides school?

Youth employment certificate applications are available online at the North Carolina Department of Labor website.

  • How do I get a work permit during summer?

    • Go to the Youth Employment Certificate page on the Department of Labor website and follow the prompts for printing a permit.
    • Minors and their parents must fill out each section of the form
    • Give the completed paperwork and a proof of age document such as a birth certificate or state ID to new employers on or before the first day of work.
      • Submitting a copy to the Department of Labor is unnecessary

Hazardous Jobs

Banned Occupations
Jobs which are hazardous to the health and well-being of minors bear a partial or complete ban in North Carolina. The Secretary of Labor establishes guidelines and makes final decisions regarding hazardous occupations. Though limited exemptions may apply in some circumstances, the following occupations typically stand prohibited for minors:

  • Manufacturing or Storing Explosives
  • Coal Mining
  • Logging or Work in Sawmills
  • Jobs Involving Exposure to Radioactive Materials
  • Work with Power-Driven Machinery
  • Work in Meat Packing Plants/Slaughterhouses
  • Roofing
  • Trenching/Excavation
  • Driving a Motor Vehicle
  • Preparing/Selling/Serving Alcoholic Beverages

Detrimental Occupations
The North Carolina Commissioner of Labor declares nine occupations as detrimental or otherwise harmful to the health of minors. As minors are ineligible for employment in said positions., with the exceptions of  government and domestic employers, and those participating in apprenticeships or student learner programs, Detrimental occupations in the Tar Heel State consist of:

  • Welding/Torch Cutting
  • Exposure to Quartz or Asbestos
  • Work with Lead
  • Benzene Exposure
  • Canneries/Processing Plants
  • Occupations Involving a Risk of Falling 10 Feet or More
  • Electrical Work/Electrician’s Helper
  • Work in Confined Spaces
  • Jobs Requiring the Use of a Respirator

North Carolina Jobs for 14 and 15 Year Olds
Fourteen and fifteen year olds in North Carolina face limits on available work. Occupations that are potentially injurious or dangerous to the health of minors remain inaccessible to young workers. These teens are unable to work during school hours, and must follow the previously outlined regulations. Positions for 14 and 15 year olds include:

  • Dishwasher
  • Grocery Bagger
  • Cashier
  • Shelf Stocker
  • Non-Cooking Food Preparation
  • Office Work

Exceptions
Driving jobs for 17 year olds are only available under certain circumstances, and must take place exclusively during daylight hours. The teens may also operate cars and small trucks only. Though it is illegal for minors to handle alcoholic beverages in any way, sixteen and seventeen year olds may work in retail establishments with licenses to sell beer and spirits. However, younger individuals may only work on the outside grounds of these locations with parental consent. Children working in acting, modeling, or other performing arts fields still need to possess work permits to hold employment but remain exempt from all other provisions of North Carolina child labor law.

Agriculture Laws

Agricultural jobs in the Old North State operate under different provisions than other occupations. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services implements all regulations for farming work. Youths 16 and older may work in any agricultural position on any farm, while children 12 and under may only perform non-hazardous tasks on their parents’ farm unless they have the appropriate waivers. Minors aged fourteen and fifteen may work safe agricultural jobs, but can only perform their duties outside of school hours. Workers under 18 are able to hold employment in pastoral cultivation fields despite a lack of work permits. 

Hazardous jobs remain unsuitable for minors under sixteen years of age. Dangerous labor positions that are off-imits to minors include:

  • Operation of heavy equipment
    • Trenchers, combines, feed grinders, tractors over 20 horsepower, any power-driven machinery
  • Working from a ladder or scaffolding over 20 feet
  • Driving an automobile, bus or truck to transport passengers
  • Use or handling of explosives
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Working with animals for breeding purposes
  • Working with newborn animals
source: North Carolina child labor laws source: Additional child labor law resources

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