Massachusetts law regulates the employment of individuals under the age of 18 by restricting the occupations in which they may work and limiting the number of hours that they may work. Private employers in Massachusetts are required by state law to post in their facilities a poster addressing the permitted hours of employment of minors (including shift and meal period information).
Jobs that are restricted for children
Child labor laws are structured so that younger workers are subject to the greatest restrictions on the types of jobs that they may perform.
9 to 12 years of age
Massachusetts law governing children between the ages of 9 and 12 focuses on newspaper delivery and similar services. Any child younger than age 9 may sell and deliver newspapers. However, the law includes several requirements for the employer of children who sell newspapers. Specifically, the employer must provide the child with written policies regarding the activities and responsibilities of the position and of the employer generally. In addition, the employer must provide an orientation and training program for the child before she or he begins employment, and the child must provide the employer with a written statement of permission from a parent or guardian to conduct the work.
Massachusetts law prohibits the employment of children under age 12 in the following positions:
- selling magazines, periodicals, or any other articles of merchandise
- shining shoes
- participating in any other trade in a street or public place.
In addition, children under age 12 may not perform the jobs described in the age categories described in the following sections regarding children under age 18.
Under 16 years of age
Massachusetts law prohibits employed children younger than 16 years old from:
- operating power-driven machinery (not including certain office machines or machines in retail or food service)
- cooking (not including on electric or gas grills that do not have open flames)
- operating fryolators, rotisseries, NEICO broilers, or pressure cookers
- operating, cleaning or repairing power-driven food slicers, grinders or choppers
- performing any baking activities
- operating microwave ovens (not including to heat food in microwave ovens with a maximum capacity of 140 degrees Fahrenheit)
- cleaning kitchen surfaces that are hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- filtering, transporting or disposing of cooking oil or grease hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- working in freezers or meat coolers
- working in a manufacturing facility (such as a factory)
- working on ladders or scaffolds
- working in garages (not including the dispensing of oil)
- working in brick or lumber yards
- working in amusement places (such as a pool or billiard room or bowling alley)
- working in barber shops
- working in construction, transportation, communications or public utilities (not including clerical work away from heavy machinery off the jobsite)
- working in warehouses (not including clerical work)
- loading or unloading trucks, railroad cars or conveyers
- washing windows in public or commercial buildings if the windowsill is more than 10 feet about the ground
- working doing laundry in a commercial laundry or dry cleaning establishment
- working at processing operations (for instance, in meat, fish or poultry processing or cracking nuts, bulk or mass mailing)
- working around boilers or in engine rooms
- doing industrial homework (also known as piecework – the production of goods in a home, apartment, or room in a residential establishment)
- working with dangerous electrical machinery or appliances
- work that is determined by the Massachusetts Attorney General to be dangerous to the health and well-being of children.
In addition, children in this age category are prohibited from performing work that individuals under age 18 may not perform as described below.
Under 18 years of age
Massachusetts law prohibits employed children younger than 18 years old from:
- driving a vehicle or forklift (not including golf carts under some circumstances), or riding as a passenger in a forklift
- operating, cleaning or repairing power-driven meat slicers, grinders or choppers
- operating, cleaning or repairing power-driven bakery machines
- working 30 feet or more above ground or water
- handling, serving or selling alcoholic beverages
- using circular or band saws, guillotine shears, power-driven chain saws, woodchippers, reciprocating saws, and abrasive cutting discs
- using power-driven woodworking machines
- using hoisting machines or work assist vehicles
- operating paper balers, paper box compactors or other power-driven paper products machines
- using power-driven metal-forming, punching or shearing machines
- using buffing or polishing equipment
- manufacturing brick, tile or kindred products
- manufacturing or storing explosives
- working in excavation, wrecking, demolition or shipbreaking
- working in logging, sawmilling or mining
- work slaughtering, packing or processing meat
- working in railway operations
- working in roofing or on or about a roof
- working in foundries or around blast furnaces
- working manufacturing phosphorus or phosphorus matches
- working where they are exposed to radioactive substances
- working as a firefighter or engineer on a boat
- oiling or cleaning hazardous machinery in motion
- working in any job requiring the possession or use of a firearm
- working at poultry slaughtering and packaging plants
- working in forest fire fighting, forestry services, and timber tract management.
Once a child turns 18 years old, the child labor laws no longer apply to the individual.
Massachusetts law limits both the total hours that children may work, as well as the time of day when they may work.
As a general rule, after 8:00 p.m., all individuals under 18 years of age must have the direct and immediate supervision of an adult supervisor who is located at the workplace and is accessible to the child worker. This rule does not apply to work performed at a kiosk, cart, or stand in the common area of an enclosed shopping mall that has security from 8:00 pm until the mall closes to the public. In addition, children are subject to the following additional restrictions on their workdays.
14 and 15 years of age
Children who are 14 and 15 years of age may only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year, and may not work during school hours. In the summer (July 1 through Labor Day), employees in this age group may work between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
When school is in session, this age group is subject to the following restrictions:
- 18 hours of work maximum each week
- three hours of work maximum on school days
- eight hours of work maximum on Saturday, Sunday and holidays
- six days of work maximum each week.
When school is not in session (July 1 through Labor Day), this age group is subject to the following restrictions:
- 40 hours of work maximum each week
- eight hours of work maximum each day
- six days of work maximum each week.
16 and 17 years of age
Massachusetts law provides the following restrictions on the work hours of 16- and 17-year-old employees:
- On nights preceding a regularly scheduled school day, the employee may only work hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., however, if the establishment stops serving customers at 10 p.m., the child may be employed until 10:15 p.m.
- On nights not preceding a regularly scheduled school day, the employee may work 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., however, at restaurants and racetracks, the employee may work between 6 a.m. and 12 midnight.
- Whether or not school is in session, this age group may only work a maximum of:
- 48 hours each week
- nine hours each day
- six days each week.
Child employees and an employment permit
Massachusetts law requires that children 17 years of age and younger obtain a work permit before starting a new job. The application for a permit may be accessed at:
In addition, as part of the permit application process, children ages 14 and 15 years of age must obtain a Physician Certificate of Health, in which a physician certifies that the child is sufficiently healthy and able to perform the relevant work.
Minimum wage and overtime requirements as they apply to children
Employers must generally comply with all state and federal laws regarding minimum wage and overtime wages.
The penalties for violating child labor
When an employer violates child labor laws, it may be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including fines of up to $127,710 and imprisonment for up to one year. In addition, the parent or guardian who permits the unlawful employment may be subject to a fine.
The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act applies to individuals under age 18; however, when these individuals are employed in violation of the child labor laws, they may be entitled to double compensation if injured on the job.
Where to go for more information
- U.S. Department of Labor
- Massachusetts Department of Labor