Tennessee Child Labor Laws

January 8th 2024

Child labor laws and regulations exist to strike a balance between allowing minors to work in safe and suitable conditions, while also safeguarding their rights, health, and educational opportunities.

In Tennessee, there are laws in place to create a secure working environment for minors, protecting them from unsafe conditions and emphasizing the importance of regular school attendance.

This article aims to provide an overview of the key components of child labor regulations in Tennessee, exploring topics such as age restrictions, limitations on work hours, and specific guidelines applicable to different industries.

This article covers:

Employment Age for Minors in Tennessee

In Tennessee, individuals must reach the age of 14 before they are legally allowed to work.

Further, there are various restrictions imposed based on the specific job, work hours, and age of the minor once they begin employment.

Working Permit for Minors in Tennessee

Work permits are not mandated in the state of Tennessee. 

Instead, minors are required to provide prospective employers with a copy of one of the following documents as proof of their age: 

  • Birth certificate
  • Driver’s license
  • State-issued ID, or a passport copy

Working Hours for Minors in Tennessee

Certain hours restrictions are imposed on minors of various ages in Tennessee. 

Minors who are 16 and 17 years old are prohibited from working during school hours. 

Parental or guardian consent is required in order for them to work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday. 

Further, they are restricted to working until midnight and are limited to no more than 3 nights of work per week. 

On the other hand, minors between the ages of 14 and 15 cannot work during school hours and are limited to working a maximum of 3 hours per day and 18 hours per week when school is in session. 

During school breaks, they are permitted to work for up to 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. 

Irrespective of age, all minors in Tennessee are required to take a 30-minute unpaid break for every 6 consecutive hours of work.

Tracking work hours for employed minors is essential to ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations. Today, various tools are available, such as time tracking software and time and attendance software, which enable precise monitoring.

Exemptions from Labor Laws Restrictions for Minors in Tennessee

In Tennessee, certain exemptions apply to minors regarding restrictions on working hours. These exemptions include:

  • Minors who work for their parents in non-hazardous occupations.
  • Minors employed as actors or performers in legitimate entertainment productions.
  • Minors who are 16 or 17 years old and are being homeschooled or enrolled in a church-related homeschooling program.

Tennessee Payment Laws for Minors

Employers in Tennessee have the option to pay both 18-year-olds and minors a lower minimum wage, known as the youth minimum wage, which is set at $4.25 per hour for the initial 90 days of their employment.

Furthermore, full-time high school or college students who work part-time may receive 85% of the regular Tennessee minimum wage ($7.25), which can be as low as $6.16 per hour.

However, this lower rate applies only if they work for specific employers and are limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week.

These employers could include work-study programs at universities or similar setups.

It is against the law in Tennessee for any employer to hire or allow someone to work without informing them in advance of the amount of wages they will receive.

In private employment, all employees must be paid their wages or compensation at least once per month.

Employers are required to post notices of regular paydays in at least two easily visible locations.

Meal and Break Period Regulations for Minors in Tennessee

In Tennessee, minors, irrespective of their age, who work for six consecutive hours are entitled to an unpaid break or meal period lasting thirty (30) minutes.

However, these breaks should not be scheduled during or before the first hour of the workday, as specified in Tennessee Code Ann. § 50-5-115

Not providing the required thirty-minute meal or rest period is considered a breach of state regulations.

To know more about the entitlements of employees in Tennessee, check our guides on your rights as a salaried employee in Tennessee and your rights as an hourly employee in Tennessee.

Banned Jobs for Minors in Tennessee

Tennessee child labor laws are in place to guarantee a safe and healthy work environment for employed minors. Consequently, there are specific occupations that minors are prohibited from engaging in within the state. These include:

  • Employment in coal mines
  • Operating vehicles
  • Handling explosives or working in sawmills
  • Working in meatpacking facilities
  • Employment in brick-manufacturing industries
  • Involvement in any form of sexually explicit or provocative photography or filming

Workplace Notices and Documentation Requirements for Minors in Tennessee

Tennessee employers who hire minors are legally mandated to maintain a separate file for each employed minor at their place of work which should include the minor’s employment application, proof of age (birth certificate, driver’s license, state-issued ID, or passport), accurate daily time records for minors covered by the relevant regulations, and any records that qualify a minor for exemption.

If a minor is 16 or 17 years old and is homeschooled, the file must include documentation from the director of the appropriate educational agency.

Employers must also allow the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development to inspect the premises where minors work or could potentially work and the contents of the individual file records as well as provide the Department with records pertaining to the employment of minors.

Additionally, they must display a notice of minor employment in Tennessee, provided by the Department, outlining the provisions of the Child Labor Act in a visible location within the business premises.

It’s important to emphasize that records and timesheets also serve as mechanisms for holding employers accountable for their treatment of child laborers. Furthermore, the data generated by time clock software is invaluable for child rights organizations and policymakers as they advocate for stronger protections and regulations. Ultimately, this advocacy contributes to the overall well-being and future prospects of child workers.

Sanctions for Violating Minors Employment Laws in Tennessee

In Tennessee, employers who violate the Child Labor Act may face fines of up to $1,000 per violation and/or be found guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor in Tennessee.

For youth peddling, the maximum fines can reach up to $10,000 per minor per violation. 

Similarly, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), fines can reach a maximum of $10,000 per minor per violation.

Employees who wish to claim certain rights may do so through the Child Labor Complaint Form

Learn more about Tennessee Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.