Minors who work in Tennessee are subject to child labor protections designed to keep young workers from being exploited. There are a number of exceptions to the law as well as prohibited occupations for people under the age of 18. Regulations also include various hour restrictions, especially for younger teens. For example, 14- and 15-year-olds may not work more than three hours a day or 18 hours a week when school is in session, even though they can work up to eight hours a day or 40 hours a week during school vacations.
While 16- and 17-year-olds do not have hour restrictions, they cannot have shifts during school hours or overnights between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. during the week. Parents may allow their children to work up to three nights each week but only until midnight. Home-schooled children are subject to the same restrictions, pending consent from their parents. However, these restrictions do not apply during school vacations or during the weekends.
The parental consent forms that allow minors to work are valid until the end of the school year or until a particular job comes to an end. The form will need to be renewed by the parents for a new school year or new job. In addition, all minors must receive a 30-minute unpaid break or mealtime if they work for six hours consecutively, and the breaks cannot take place during the first work hour of the day.
Because minors are new to the workplace, some unscrupulous employers may seek to take advantage of that fact by paying them below the minimum wage, refusing them breaks or not fully compensating them for overtime. An employment lawyer can work with minors and their parents to take action in case of an employer violating wage and hour laws.