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Can children work legally in America?

It is common knowledge that many employers only hire legal adults and do not or cannot hire minors or children to work, especially in dangerous or overly technical fields. However, many children do work legally in the United States, and many employers choose to work with minor employees.

There are a number of exceptions within child labor laws that provide flexibility to children or minors who want to have a job and generate income.

While minors more than 14 years old may find a number of entry level jobs, even children younger than 14 may sometimes work and receive pay. These opportunities for employment, however, are very limited.

A child under the age of 14 may only perform work if it is:

  • Working as a performer, such as in movies, television or theater
  • Delivering newspapers
  • Babysitting, but only on a part-time casual basis
  • Gathering evergreens and making evergreen wreaths
  • Working within a business entirely owned by the child's parents

Even in these exceptions, there are limitations. For instance, a child may work in a parent's market or restaurant legally, but children may not work in a dangerous environment, like a mine or manufacturing plant.

If you have concerns about remaining within proper child labor laws, it is wise to remember that the law generally seeks to protect a child's opportunity to obtain an education, socialize effectively and avoid unnecessary harm.

For those with more specific, industry-related concerns, strong guidance and high quality legal resources can help you build a legal strategy to protect your rights and the rights of any children in your care or that you see suffering unfair treatment.

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