Hard Knocks for Minors Entering the Workforce

Updated on April 21, 2020
Mrs. Obvious profile image

Mrs. Obvious is a mother, wife, and mentor. She used to own her own groom shop called Puppy Love and was self-employed for nine years.

Job Hunting for Minors Isn't Easy

Why is it so hard for our young people to find a job nowadays? Especially finding an employer that will hire under 18 years of age? My sons are now 16 and 17 and finding a job for them has been a nightmare. My younger son has been wanting a job since he was 14, but in our experience, no one hires that young. My husband and other well-meaning adults are constantly admonishing the boys to “go out and find a job." Well, we all know that they can’t afford a car of their own, or gas or insurance, or Uber rides to go perform the job hunt, so this puts me on the front line, helping to drive them all over town in search of businesses that might hire them. Well, after constantly being turned down at numerous types of businesses due to their age, I decided to research the “why” behind the denial to hire under 18.

My son and a friend working hard on home projects.
My son and a friend working hard on home projects. | Source


To name a few businesses (in our experience) that will not hire minors I’ve compiled a list. (Not to bash these employers, but as a reference.)

  • Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply
  • Gas stations with convenience stores
  • Subarama
  • Dutch Bros (although a few will hire 17-year-olds)
  • Dirt bike shops like Cycle Gear
  • Construction helper jobs
  • Dollar Tree and 99 cent stores

It seems that only fast-food chains and grocery stores will hire minors under 18. Needless to say, this is a frustrating situation for kids that don’t want to do food service or carry groceries. Additionally, the competition to get jobs in these industries is insane because there are such limited choices for teens. Some large amusement parks will hire teenagers too, but if you don’t live near one of these, that doesn’t help much.

Laws and the Consequences to Our Kids

So of course, the main answer to why employers won’t hire under 18 boils down to government rules and laws. The U.S. Department of Labor, in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has many regulations regarding what kinds of work kids can’t do, and you’d be surprised as to how many industries this affects. These rules are meant to keep kids away from hazardous occupations or hazardous substances, but I believe that they also put a major crimp in our kids’ ability to get a decent job outside the fast-food industry. The second barrier to employing minors are the rules about when and how many hours kids can work, which I will cover a bit later.

At youthrules.gov I found a list of prohibited occupations for kids, which I have paraphrased slightly:

  1. Manufacturing or storing of explosives
  2. Driving a motor vehicle or working as an outside helper on motor vehicles.
  3. Coal mining
  4. Forest fire fighting or prevention, and occupations in logging and sawmilling
  5. Using power-driven woodworking machines.
  6. Exposure to radioactive substances and ionizing radiation
  7. Using power-driven hoisting apparatus
  8. Using power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines.
  9. Mining (other than coal)
  10. Using power-driven meat processing machines, slaughtering, meat and poultry packing, processing, or rendering.
  11. Using power-driven bakery machines
  12. Using bales, compactors, and power-driven paper-products machines.
  13. Manufacturing brick, tile, and related products.
  14. Using power-driven saws, guillotine shears, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs.
  15. Working in wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations.
  16. Roofing and work performed on or about roofs.
  17. Trenching or excavating.

There is another whole list of restrictions for kids who are working in agricultural settings, but I found a few on here that may affect aspects of working in other industries:

  1. Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet.
  2. Handling or applying toxic agricultural chemicals identified by the words “danger," “poison," "warning," or a skull and crossbones on the label.
  3. Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia (found in fertilizers).

One thing I didn’t find on this government website or any others that I researched for this article is the rules regarding whether or not a minor can legally sell alcohol and tobacco products (as a cashier). What I do know is that they couldn’t 25 years ago when I started working, and now that California has even raised the legal age for purchasing alcohol and tobacco to 21, I’m going to assume you have to be at least 18 to sell these age-restricted products. Which explains why gas station convenience stores won’t hire kids.

Additionally, after reviewing this list of information, I can see why many places that appear to be a great place for youngsters, can’t and won’t hire them. Like Ace and Tractor Supply; they sell plant poisons and fertilizers. The Subarama we inquired at uses a meat slicer in their deli, so the boys can’t work there. Construction helper jobs? Nope. Too many power tools. As for the dollar stores, I have no idea what their reasoning is, other than maybe they just don’t want to deal with teen workers.

Limits on Work Hours Per Day and Per Week

Moving on to the laws regarding work hours, employers must guard that their minor employees are working within the legal number of allowable work hours per day and within the allowable daily time frames; putting even more burden of responsibility on employers that are willing to hire minors.

The following information I obtained from a publication at https://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/images/pamphlets/KidsLawENG2016web-r.pdf.

  1. In California, kids who are 14 years old and older, may work no more than three hours on a school day and no more than 18 hours in a school week. (Ed.C § 49116; Lab.C § 1391(a)(2))
  2. They can also work no more than eight hours on a non-school day and no more than 40 hours in a non-school week. (Ed.C § 49112(c); Lab.C § 1391(a)(1))
  3. From the day after Labor Day until midnight on May 31 (winter), their workday may not begin before 7 a.m. or end after 7 p.m. (Lab.C § 1391(a)(1))
  4. From June 1 through Labor Day (summer), their workday may not begin earlier than 7 a.m. However, it can end as late as 9 p.m. (Lab.C § 1391(a)(1))

There are a couple of exceptions to these hours and a full-time work permit is available for a minor that is 14–15 years old if, among other things:

  1. A parent or guardian presents a sworn statement that he or she is incapacitated or the death of one of the parents causes the family to need the minor’s earnings.
  2. A minor is unable to live with his or her family and needs earnings to survive.
  3. The minor is in foster care or lives with a guardian and obtains written permission from the foster parent, guardian or social worker. Ironically, a fact that I didn’t know, as stated by this site, says that children who are 16 and older can obtain full-time work permits, but does not go into detail to specify how that changes the number of hours per day that the minor can work.

Workers Compensation Considerations

As if State and Federal laws and regulations weren’t enough of a deterrent for employers, there is another thing discouraging them from hiring minors. Workers’ Compensation. Needless to say, it’s expensive. Here in California, the premium is based on the annual salary that an employee makes. This wouldn’t be much compared to an adult working full time, but minors are protected with special additional coverages. According to this blog, those coverages are: A. future earning capacity, B. illegal employment, and C. special benefit provisions.

I am not an expert in workers comp and that is outside the scope of this hub, so I will not attempt to break this down further with details, but suffice it to say that workers comp is one more thing that employers have to plan for and worry about.

Youth Work Opportunities and Their Future

In conclusion, my teen boys still don’t have a job. This weekend we ran around putting in applications at some of their only available choices. A McDonald’s, a local pizza joint, a drive-thru coffee shop, and a bowling alley. At this point, just getting them employed anywhere would be a blessing; for the workplace skills, they will learn and for the money they will earn for themselves. But I fail to see how these types of jobs will set them up for their future.

My younger son is super motivated to get a welding degree through our local community college and has already taken a beginning welding class while concurrently being enrolled in high school. He should be looking for an apprenticeship type job with a welder. My older son is a budding entrepreneur and would love to get a job in a barely-legal type of business to learn the ropes, but that is another story altogether, and he is NOT old enough for that yet.

Regardless, being employable, and actually employed nowadays is a major hurdle to adulthood, and just getting that accomplishment under their belt will help them grow and learn and move on to bigger and better things. Like getting their driver’s license, their own car, and one day their own apartment. Milestones of their youth that if not achieved could stunt them as adults. As their mom, I’m rooting for them, and supporting their efforts. As a community member and voter, I would hope maybe we could take another look at how we are suppressing the transitioning of our youth to adulthood, and reform some of the laws and requirements for working minors, so we could open up more opportunity for them to learn some real-world skills, in more diverse industries. Sometimes, thanks to well-meaning laws and regulations, we doth protect too much!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Willow Mattox


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