Legal Age to Work in Massachusetts

Minimum Age to Work in MA

Massachusetts (MA) Quick Reference Table
AgeSummary of Requirements
14-15Employment permits are required. Cannot work between 7:00pm and 7:00am.
16-17Employment permits are required. May NOT be employed between 10:00pm and 6:00am.
18-20Must be 18 to work in establishments that sell or serve alcohol for consumption
21Able to serve alcohol for consumption. No restrictions.
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Massachusetts Child Labor Laws

The General Laws of Massachusetts clearly define at what age and what occupations workers may begin careers or find employment. The Bay State allows individuals as young as 14 to assume jobs in various capacities, with employment hunters 16 and over open to even more opportunities. Legal restrictions largely begin to wean at age eighteen. Job seekers 21 and over carry no restrictions for employment in any industry.

Jobs for Minors 14 and Under

Unlike individuals over the age of 18, job seekers falling into the age bracket of 14 hold very limited options for employment in Massachusetts. State law only allows fourteen year olds to work in specific capacities: as newspaper carriers, as assistants on farms, as seasonal helpers, i.e. landscaping, or as vendors. Working on a farm owned by a parent or legal guardian holds no legal hiring age. To work on another farm not owned by a parent or legal guardian, applicants must stand at least 12 or 13 and need parental consent in writing. Youths nine and older may deliver newspapers with a special badge obtained by a parent or legal guardian. Seasonal work opportunities remain limited to 10 and 11 year olds. The legal age to work vending or selling miscellaneous items stands at 12. All jobs hiring under the age of 18 require applicants to obtain work permits available through the state government.

Obtaining a Work Permit

In order to work in the State of Massachusetts under the age of 18, all workers must obtain a work permit approved by local governments. The documents remains available through the Department of Labor Standards website or through the offices of the superintendent for the corresponding local public school system. After completing the form, workers must return the document to the offices of the local superintendent to certify the permit and officially grant permission to work as a minor. The document must clearly state the name and address of the intended employer as well as provide detailed description of the potential job.

Permits remain active for as long as the minor holds the job or until the minor turns 18. Workers looking to change jobs while still underage must begin again the process of applying for a work permit. Employers must keep work permits for youths on file and accessible onsite at all times throughout the full duration of underage worker tenures. If employers seek or wish to terminate minors, the owners or supervisors in charge of hiring or handling work permit documentation must turn in the specific work permit for each would-be terminated employee to the same office of the superintendent that provided document certification.

Limitations for Minors Under 16

Hours Restrictions for 14 and 15 Year Olds
Under Massachusetts child labor laws, jobs for 14 year olds and jobs for 15 year olds carry specific hours restrictions. As a general rule, workers must remain closely supervised after 8:00pm any night of the week, with the only exceptions including work in mall kiosks or other areas patrolled by designated security officers. During the school year, individuals may only work between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm. During the summer months, Massachusetts fourteen and fifteen year olds may work between the hours of 7:00am and 9:00pm. The summer, as defined by The General Laws of Massachusetts, runs from July 1 through Labor Day.

The state also places specific restrictions on the number of hours each individual youth may work under General Law. With school in session, youth labor laws limit total weekly hours to no more than 18, with no more than three hours accumulated on school days, no more than eight hours on weekends and holidays, and no more than six total days in a given week. Over the summer, jobs for 14 and 15 year olds allow for full-time schedules of 40 hours a week comprised of full, eight-hour days; however, limited to only six days in a single week.

Where can 16 and 17 Year Olds Work in Massachusetts?

The best employment options for individuals between the ages of 16 and 18 in the State of Massachusetts include opportunities in fast food, retail, agriculture, landscaping, community service, and vending. Special services like manual car washes and caddying also represent viable jobs for sixteen year olds. The state explicitly prohibits minors ages 16 and 17 to perform any kind of labor involving moving or mechanized parts, such as slicers, grinders, power-driven machinery, assemblers, vehicles, conveyor belts, boilers, or mechanical processors. Below sits a list of jobs and activities Massachusetts youth labor laws prohibit for sixteen and seventeen year olds while employed:

  • Cook (except in cases where no open flame is used)
  • Use of Pressure Cookers
  • Slicing Meats & Cheeses
  • Working in/with Conditions/Materials of Extreme Heat/Cold (i.e. 100 degrees F, etc.)
  • Roofing/Window Washing
  • Working with Crude Materials (Oil/Brake Fluid/Gasoline)
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Work in Bowling Alleys/Billiard Rooms
  • Door to Door Sales
  • Warehouse Work (except administrative)
  • Construction
  • Work Involving the Commercial Transportation of Goods and/or Persons
  • Public Messaging Services/Mass Mailing
  • Processing of Meats
  • Electrical Work
  • Commercial Laundering

Massachusetts imposes further restrictions on minors ages 16 and 17 in place for 18 year olds, as well. Labor laws may extend beyond the list above. The State Attorney General holds the right to categorize any occupation as potentially harmful to the health and/or safety of minors and bar underage applicants from assuming the jobs.

Hours Restrictions for Sixteen and Seventeen Year Olds

Laws governing how many hours 16 and 17 year olds may work allow for the youths to take on significantly more hours than minors under 16. Sixteen and seventeen year olds may work between the hours of 6:00am and 10:00pm on nights leading into school days. For establishments like restaurants and other retail or service-oriented jobs, whose employers may hold hours until 10:00pm, the workers may stay on an additional 15 minutes to help with cleanup. On weekends and holidays, sixteen and seventeen year olds may work between 6:00am and 11:30pm. General Law of Massachusetts provides special exceptions for individuals working in restaurants or casino racetracks, which tend to hold later hours than other establishments. On nights not preceding school days, workers may assume schedules between 6:00am and 12:00am. Law prohibits employers from scheduling 16 and 17 year olds for any more than 48 hours in a single week, more than nine hours in a single day, and no more than six days in a single week.

Jobs for 18 Year Olds

The type of jobs restricted to individuals 18 and over largely include the same positions and occupations excluding 16 and 17 year olds. Massachusetts youth labor laws prohibit individuals under eighteen from handling, serving, or selling alcoholic beverages. Jobs must not place individuals in potential injury-inducing or life-threatening situations. Occupations reserved for individuals over 18 include:

  • Carpentry using Power-Driven Machines or Sharpened Tools
  • Railroad Work
  • Use of Forklifts, Vehicles
  • Work involving Extreme Heights
  • Firefighting
  • Alcohol Sales, Handling, Distribution
  • Use of Balers, Compactors, or Processing Machines
  • Metal Forming or Manufacturing
  • Handling of Phosphorous-related Materials
  • Work involving the use/handling of Oil or Oil Processing Machinery
  • Handling of Radioactive Materials/Work around Radiation
  • Manufacturing of Bricks, Tiles
  • Use or Storing of Explosives
  • Excavation
  • Forestry
  • Roofing
  • Occupations involving Blast Furnaces
  • Slaughtering/Packaging of Meats for Consumption
  • Nautical Engineering
  • Occupations involving Firearms or other Weapons

Exceptions

Massachusetts allows for certain exceptions to laws governing the minimum legal working age. One of the most common exceptions includes participation in various forms of commercial entertainment. The General Laws of Massachusetts state individuals under 18 may work for money as entertainers in fields like theater, television, radio, and cinema. How old do you have to be to work on the various commercial entertainment projects largely depends on casting calls but regularly includes individuals under the age of 18. The acting state Attorney General must personally approve the employment of minors 16 and under for entertainment purposes, unless the opportunity serves an educational purpose.

source: Massachusetts child labor laws source: Massachusetts youth work permit application
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