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This Illinois Human Resources Manual is offered to you for free. Find state specific laws and regulations below.

Child labor — Illinois

Federal law, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Illinois Child Labor Law closely regulate the employment of minors, imposing special restrictions on the terms and conditions of employment and additional administrative duties on employers. Employers must be especially careful to strictly comply with these laws because violators are subject to stiff fines.

Protections for child laborers

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) child labor provisions are intended to ensure that children have the opportunity to obtain an education and prevent them from being employed in occupations and under conditions that may be harmful to their health or well-being.

To meet these goals, the FLSA includes restrictions on hours of work for minors under 16 and prohibits employers from hiring minors in hazardous occupations. Different restrictions apply to agricultural and nonagricultural employment.

Employers of minors shall post a schedule stating the hours of work and time of the lunch period. When both the FLSA and the Illinois Child Labor Law cover a workplace, the stricter of the two laws is the one the employer should follow.

Minimum age and work-time requirements

Non-farm jobs

For work other than farming, the legal hours of work and degree of hazard are as follows:

  • 18 years old - Any job for unlimited hours, whether work is hazardous or non-hazardous.
  • 16 and 17 years old - Any job for unlimited hours except those declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor (see page 127, Too hazardous for minors). The hazardous occupation prohibition also applies in the case of employment by the parent or person standing in place of the parent.
  • 14 and 15 years old - No hazardous, manufacturing, mining jobs or any occupation declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Various office, clerical, sales, retail or food service jobs according to the following limitations:
    • When school is in session, work is limited to:
      •  three hours on a school day (including Fridays)
      • on school days the total of hours attending school and work may not be more than eight
      • 24 hours in a school week.
    • When school is not in session (including summer vacations, holidays, and weekends), work is limited to:
      • eight hours on a non-school day
      • six days per week
      • 48 hours in a non-school week.
    • Work is limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.
    • Employers must provide a scheduled meal period of at least 30 minutes no later than the fifth consecutive hour of work.
  • Any age - May deliver newspapers, act or perform in television, movies and theatrical productions, work for their parents in solely owned non-farm businesses (except in manufacturing and hazardous jobs), gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths. Additionally, children of any age may perform work not covered by the FLSA such as completing minor chores around private homes or casual babysitting.

Agricultural jobs

For farming work, the permissible hours and degree of hazard are as follows:

  • 16 years old - Any farm job for unlimited hours, at any time, whether work is hazardous or non-hazardous.
  • 14 and 15 years old - Any non-hazardous farm job outside of school hours.
  • 12 and 13 years old - Non-hazardous farm jobs outside school hours either with the minor’s parents’ written consent or jobs on farms where a parent is also employed.
  • Under 12 years old - Jobs on farms owned or operated by the minor’s parents or with the parents’ consent on farms not covered by the federal minimum wage requirements.
  • Any age - May be employed by their parents on farms owned and operated by a parent or person standing in the place of a parent, whether or not the job is hazardous.

Prohibited hazardous employment

Employment of minors is prohibited in occupations that are potentially hazardous or detrimental to the minor’s health. Whether an occupation is considered hazardous sometimes depends on the age of the minor.

All minors

All minors are prohibited from working in occupations such as:

  • manufacturing bricks, tile and kindred products
  • roofing operations and all work on or about a roof
  • exposure to radioactive substances
  • operating certain power-driven machines
  • meat and poultry packing or processing
  • excavation
  • wrecking and demolition
  • logging and sawmill work
  • forest fire fighting
  • mining
  • operation of certain dangerous machines
  • operation of power-driven hoisting apparatus, including forklifts
  • manufacture, storage of or exposure to explosives or radioactive substances
  • operating power-driven bakery machines, including vertical dough or batter mixers.

Minors under the age of 16

In addition to those activities prohibited from all minors, employees under the age of 16 are prohibited from working in additional occupations, including:

  • manufacturing
  • construction or repair
  • ride attendant or ride operator at an amusement park or a dispatcher at the top of elevated water slides
  • youth peddling or door-to-door sales
  • poultry catching or cooping
  • lifeguarding at a natural environment (such as a lake, ocean, etc.)
  • workrooms where products are manufactured, mined or processed
  • boiler or engine room work
  • baking
  • cooking, except with gas or electric grills that do not involve cooking over an open flame and with deep fat fryers that are equipped with and utilize devices that automatically lower and raise the baskets in and out of the hot grease or oil
  • operating, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling or repairing power-driven food slicers, grinders, choppers or cutters and bakery mixers
  • freezers or meat coolers work, except minors may occasionally enter a freezer for a short period of time to retrieve items
  • loading or unloading goods on or off trucks, railcars or conveyors except in very limited circumstances
  • maintenance or repair of a building or its equipment
  • outside window washing that involves working from windowsills
  • all work involving the use of ladders, scaffolds or similar equipment
  • warehousing
  • transportation
  • food processing
  • communications and public utility work
  • public messenger service
  • farm employment involving large machinery or toxic chemicals
  • occupations in which they are required to drive motor vehicles or serve as a helper on the vehicle.

Minors under 16 are permitted to perform non-hazardous work such as office work in these industries.

Illinois specific hazardous occupations

The following specific hazardous occupations are prohibited for minors:

  • in, about or in conjunction with any public messenger or deliver service, bowling alley, pool room, billiard room, skating rink (except an ice-skating rink owned and operated by a school or unit of local government); exhibition park or place of amusement, garage or as a bell boy in any hotel or rooming house or about or in connection with power-driver machinery
  • in the oiling, cleaning or wiling of machinery or shafting
  • in or about any mine or quarry
  • in stone cutting or polishing
  • in or about any hazardous factory work
  • in or about any plant manufacturing explosives or articles containing explosive components, in the use of transportation of same
  • in or about plants manufacturing iron or steel, ore reduction works, smelters, foundries, forging shops, hot rolling mills or any place in which the heating melting or heat treating of metals is carried on
  • in the operation of machinery used in the cold rolling of heavy metal stock, or in the operation of power-driven punching, shearing, stamping or metal plate pending machines
  • in or about sawmills or lath, shingle or cooperage stock mills
  • in the operation of power-driven woodworking machines or off bearing from circular saws
  • in the operation of freight elevators or hoisting machines and cranes
  • in spray painting or in occupations involving exposure to lead or its compounds or to dangerous or poisonous dyes or chemicals
  • in any place or establishment in which intoxicating alcoholic liquors are served or sold for consumption on the premises, or in which such liquors are manufactured or bottled; except as follows:
    • busboy and kitchen employment, not otherwise prohibited, when in connection with the service of meals at any private club, fraternal organization or veteran’s organization
    • employment that is performed on property owned or operated by a park district, as defined in subsection (a) of Section 1-3 of the Park District Code, if the employment is not otherwise prohibited by law
  • in oil refineries, gasoline blending plants or pumping stations on oil transmission lines
  • in operation of laundry, dry cleaning or dying machinery
  • in occupations involving exposure to radioactive substances
  • in or about any filling station or service station
  • in construction work, including demolition and repair
  • in roofing operations
  • in excavating operations
  • in logging operations
  • in public and private utilities and related services
  • in operations in or in connection with slaughtering, meat packing, poultry processing and fish and seafood processing
  • in operations which involve working on an elevated surface, with or without use of equipment, including but not limited to ladders and scaffolds
  • in security positions or any occupation that requires the use or carrying of a firearm or other weapon
  • in occupations which involve the handling or storage of blood, blood products, body fluids or body tissue.

Driving by minors

Minor employees who are under 17 years of age may not drive automobiles or trucks on public roadways. However, employees who are 17 years of age or older may drive automobiles or trucks on public roadways if:

  • The driving is only occasional and incidental to the employee’s employment.
  • Such driving is restricted to daylight hours.
  • The employee holds a valid driver's license and has no record of moving violations at the time of hire.
  • The employee has successfully completed a state‑approved driver education course.
  • The automobile or truck is equipped with a seat belt for the driver and any passengers, and the employer has instructed the employee that the seat belts must be used when driving.
  • The automobile or truck does not exceed 6,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight.
  • The driving does not involve the towing of vehicles; route deliveries; route sales; transportation for hire of property, goods or passengers; or urgent time‑sensitive deliveries.
  • The driving does not involve transporting more than three passengers, including employees of the employer.
  • The driving does not involve more than two trips away from the primary place of employment in a single day to deliver goods or transport passengers other than employees.
  • The employee does not drive outside of a 30-mile radius from the place of employment.

Driving is considered “occasional” and “incidental” when it involves no more than one‑third of an employee’s workday or no more than 20% of any workweek.


The Illinois Child Labor Law does not apply to:

  • The sale and distribution of magazines and newspapers during hours when school is not in session.
  • Employment of a minor outside of school hours in and around the home of an employer when the work is not business related.
  • Caddying at a golf course (if minor is 13 or older).
  • Officials at certain sports activities (minors aged 12 and 13).

Enforcement and penalties

Employers who violate the child labor laws may be fined by the DOL up to $14,050 per worker for each violation of the child labor provisions. Further, employers may be fined $63,855 for each violation that causes the death or serious injury of a minor employee; such penalty may be doubled, up to $127,710, if the violation is determined to be willful or repeated. The FLSA also provides for criminal fines of up to $10,000 upon conviction for a willful violation, with additionally penalties imposed for repeat violations. For a second conviction for a willful violation, the FLSA provides for a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment for up to six months or both. 

Size of employer, the seriousness of the violation and the likelihood that the employer will comply with the law in the future are considered in determining the amount of a fine.

Additional requirements for employing minors

The Illinois Child Labor Law requires all minors to have employment certificates. Certificates are issued from the Superintendents of Schools or their duly authorized agents enrolled in school and for children under the age of 13 who are involved in certain activities such as talent and movie production.

The purpose of these certificates is to protect the employer from prosecution for employing an under-aged worker. The possession of an age certificate constitutes a good faith effort to comply with minimum age requirements.

Because penalties are severe for child labor violations, employers should familiarize themselves with all relevant federal laws prior to employing a minor.

Required procedures for teens

  • Teens must obtain a letter of intent to hire from the prospective employer. The letter must outline the hour to be worked.
  • The letter of intent to hire must be taken to the issuing officer at the teen’s school district in order to obtain the required work permit.
  • After reviewing the letter and verifying the safety of the position the issuing officer will issue the work permit.

Employer requirements

Employers are prohibited from hiring minors under 16 years of age who do not have an approved work permit. Employers who do so are subject to significant fines from the Illinois Department of Labor.