Young workers State laws

Changes to child labor laws

What’s being done – or proposed – at the state level

Photos: kali9/ gettyimages; Inti St Clair/gettyimages

Lawmakers in several states are proposing – or have recently enacted – legislation aimed at changing child labor laws to allow teens to work longer, later and without parental permission. Supporters of these changes say they give teens the ability to gain valuable work experience and skills, as well as boost the economy. Opponents counter that they force teens to choose between school and work and, in some cases, expose them to conditions that are too hazardous for their age group.

Department of Labor data highlights a recent rise in child labor law violations. From fiscal year 2021 to FY 2023, DOL reported a 28% increase in cases involving child labor violations and a 105% jump in the number of minors employed in violation of a law.

During an April 17 House appropriations subcommittee hearing, acting Labor Secretary Julie Su reminded lawmakers that federal law still applies in every state. “The federal law is a floor,” Su said. “We make sure the Department of Labor enforces that floor.”

OSHA’s website states that, “Where a state child labor law is less restrictive than the federal law, the federal law applies.”

The Biden administration, in its FY 2025 budget proposal for DOL, is seeking $7.5 million from Congress to support 50 full-time investigators for child labor law violations.

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Here’s a quick look at some of the efforts to amend child labor laws in each state.


The Youth Hiring Act of 2023 (H.B. 1410) went into effect last summer. It repealed a century-old law that required employers hiring children younger than 16 to verify a job applicant’s age and get parental consent.


In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law H.B. 49. It allows 16- and 17-year-olds – with permission from a parent, guardian or school superintendent – to work beyond the current state limit of 30 hours a week. The law also permits them to work more than eight hours a day on weekends and holidays.


Also in March, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed into law S.B. 146. It allows 14-16 year olds to work past 7 p.m. on school nights, prohibits restrictions on work hours for 16- to 18-year-olds, and allows workers 18 and older to ring up sales of alcoholic beverages.


The state updated its Youth Employment Law on July 1. The law allows employers to apply for a waiver that permits the participation of 16- and 17-year-olds in “approved work-based learning or work-related programs involving certain hazardous work activities under certain conditions,” according to the state’s Division of Labor website.

In 2022, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed into law S.F. 543. It increased – to six from four – the number of daily hours 14- and 15-year-olds can work while school is in session. The law also allows this group to work until 9 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day. Workers ages 16 and 17 are allowed to work the same hours as adults.

Reynolds also signed a bill that lowers the age – to 16 from 18 – for child care employees to work without additional supervision from adults.


At press time, the Senate was considering H.B. 225. The original bill initially sought to repeal a current law that limits 16- and 17-year-olds to six hours of work on school days, eight hours on non-school days and 30 hours a week during the school year.

On March 27, the Senate amended the bill to state that 16- and 17-year-olds could work no more than 40 hours a week when school is in session, and between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. on nights preceding a school day. On nights that don’t precede a school day, they’d be allowed to work until 1 a.m. No restrictions would apply, under the amended version, when school isn’t in session.

New Hampshire

Enacted in 2022, S.B. 345 allows 14-year-olds to bus tables in establishments where alcohol is served. Previously, workers had to be 15. The law also increased the number of hours – to 35 from 30 – that 16- and 17-year-olds can work each week while attending school. Teens enrolled in school also can work any shift – including night shifts – as long as they don’t surpass 35 hours a week.

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2022 signed legislation that expands the weekly hours – to 50 from 40 – that 16- and 17-year-old workers can log during the summer. The law also allows 14- and 15-year-olds to work 40 hours a week in the summer months when school isn’t in session.


Last year, the state Senate passed S.B. 30. It would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work until 9 p.m. during the school year with permission from a parent or legal guardian.


Enacted in March 2023, H.B. 1212 allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be employed in establishments where more than a quarter of the monthly revenue comes from alcohol sales.

West Virginia

In February, the House passed a bill that would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work without a permit. At press time, the legislation had been approved by the Senate Workforce Committee and was before the body’s Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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