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What are Maine’s child labor laws?

In Maine, known for its dramatic seasonal business swings, the workforce includes a vital yet often overlooked segment – minors. Due to this seasonality, a large amount of high school students in Maine are engaged in part-time employment to fill the workforce needs of many businesses.  With this demographic highly active in the working community, the importance of understanding and adhering to child labor laws in Maine is critical.

In this article, we will explore the rules of Maine’s child labor laws.  This article is a roadmap for navigating legal requirements, ensuring the well-being and rights of minors in the workforce are protected.  After reading this article, employers and HR professionals should have a better understanding of Maine’s child labor laws.  Paper Trails is dedicated to educating business owners in Maine on topics relevant to successfully operating a business.  While there are numerous employment laws required of Maine employers, complying with child labor laws are becoming more and more prevalent.  Let’s get started.

What are child labor laws?

Child labor laws are regulations designed to protect the safety and rights of minors in the workforce.  The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division enforces the federal child labor laws. Generally speaking, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the minimum age for employment, restricts the hours youth may work, and prohibits youth under the age of 18 from being employed in hazardous occupations.  Many states have their own set of laws that may be stricter than those set forth federal by the FLSA. In Maine, these laws are particularly important, balancing the need for early work experience with education and safety for young workers.

Why are child labor laws important?

Child labor laws play a pivotal role in safeguarding minors from exploitation and hazardous work conditions. They ensure that work does not interfere with the education of minors and that their work experience is safe and beneficial. These laws are crucial in preventing child labor abuses and in fostering a positive and lawful work environment for young individuals.

Maine child labor laws

Maine has its own specific set of laws that govern workers under the age of 18.  Full details can be found here.  Maine breaks down laws into two age groups: 14 & 15 year-olds and 16 & 17 year-olds.  Below, we take a look at a high level perspective of Maine’s laws.

Laws for 14 and 15 year-olds

In Maine, 14 and 15-year-olds are subject to specific work hour limitations and job types.  These restrictions are designed to prioritize their education and ensure sufficient rest and leisure time.

Here are some of the major laws:

Work Permits

  • Minors under 16 years old must obtain a work permit before beginning a job
  • They must get a new permit every time they begin a new job until they reach 16 years old, even if they work for their parents
  • Employers must have a stamped, approved work permit on file before allowing any minor under 16 years old to work

Types of Work

  • Minors of the age 14 may work in nonhazardous jobs in restaurants, in sporting and overnight camps, stores, filling stations, ice cream stands and laundromats
  • Those aged 14 may work at outside occupations on the grounds of a hotel or motel, but not if the minor must stay away from home overnight
  • Minors aged 15 may work in nonhazardous jobs in dining rooms, kitchens, lobbies and offices of hotels and motels, but they are prohibited from performing room service, making deliveries to the hotel rooms

Work Hours

  • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year
  • Between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. during summer vacations only
  • Not during school hours

Maximum Hours

  • 3 hours a day on school days, including Fridays
  • 18 hours in any week during a school week
  • 40 hours in a week with no school
  • 8 hours on days without school (during weekends, holidays, vacations, storm days, etc.)
  • No more than 6 days in a row

Laws for 16 and 17 year-olds

Next, 16 and 17 year-olds are subject to different work hour limitations and job types. These laws ensure that while these older teens have more working opportunities, their health and education are not compromised.

Here are some of the major laws:

Types of Work

  • Minors who are 16 or 17 may work in nonhazardous jobs in manufacturing establishments, bakeries, laundries, dry cleaning establishments and garages
  • They may also work in hotels; motels; commercial places of amusement, including skating rinks, circuses, arcades, bowling alleys and pool halls
  • Can work in all of the industries allowed for younger minors

Work Hours

Please Note: The Maine law which limits hours for 16- and 17-year-old workers includes several exceptions. Federal law does not limit work hours for minors that are 16 and 17 years old.

  • May work after 7 a.m. on a school day
  • After 5 a.m. on a non-school day
  • Until 10:15 p.m. on a day before a school day
  • Until midnight if no school the next day
  • Minors under 17 may NOT work during school hours

Maximum Hours

  • 6 hours on a school day
  • 8 hours on the last school day of the week
  • 10 hours in any day when the minors school is not in session
  • 24 hours a week in any week with 3 or more school days
  • 50 hours a week each week there are less than 3 scheduled school days or during 1st and last week of school year
  • No more than 6 days in a row

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Failure to comply with Maine’s child labor laws can result in severe penalties.  During a DOL Wage and Labor audit, investigators will ensure that businesses are following state and federal regulations. Employers found violating these laws may face substantial fines ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars per incident. Such stringent measures underscore the state’s commitment to protecting its young workforce.

What are the new federal penalties?

There have been some recent updates in federal child labor law enforcement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which could significantly impact employers.  The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is intensifying its scrutiny and actions against child labor law violations, resulting in an 88% increase in child labor violations since 2019.  New procedures for assessing Civil Money Penalties in nonserious and noninjury child labor cases mean harsher penalties for violations.  Each violation, not employee, now carries penalties of up to $15,000!

How employers should proceed

Navigating the world of child labor laws can be challenging for businesses.  Knowing your responsibilities is key.  Working with a payroll and HR vendor can help you with these challenges.  Here at Paper Trails, we offer expert guidance and solutions to help businesses in Maine and beyond stay compliant with child labor laws and all labor laws.  With our extensive knowledge and tailored services, Paper Trails ensures your business can focus on growth while maintaining legal integrity and fostering a safe working environment for young workers. Reach out to us today to ensure your business is in full compliance!