Know Your Child’s Work Rights

By: Howard Ankin
The Ankin Law Office

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - BusinessThe neighborhood grocery store is hiring for the summer, but also told my 15 year old son that they might have an after school job for him when school starts again. They said he needed to have an employment certificate, but I have no idea what they are talking about. I’m also worried because I don’t mind him bagging groceries or mopping up, but I don’t want him slicing meat or using the giant trash compactor in the alley.

The good news is that the State of Illinois has the answers for most, if not all, of your concerns. Illinois Child Labor Law requires that teens under the age of 16 obtain an employment certificate from their local high school administration office. In order to get this certificate, the potential employer must give them a written letter of intention. This letter should spell out the conditions of the employment including the job title, type of work and the hours they will be expected to work. The certificate the school issues establishes that the teen is legally old enough to work, can physically perform the job, and most importantly, that the employment opportunity will not interfere with their education.

During the school year teens under the age of 16 may only be employed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and not more than three hours per school day or eight hours when school and work is combined. They can work up to eight hours on non-school days but not more than 24 hours per week.

Teens under 16 may not be employed in gas stations, dry cleaners or places where liquor is served. The law does not allow employers to have teens work with power-driven machinery which would include meat slicers, trash compactor or cardboard balers. Teens may not be involved in doing demolition or working on scaffolds. When a teen turns 16 his or her hours can be increased, but many of the same prohibitions on hazardous jobs still apply.

It is important that you, as the parent, keep an hour out for your son or daughter. Watch their work schedule and make sure that they do not work more hours than is legally allowed. Review a paycheck stub with your teen in order to teach them how to determine if proper taxes have been taken out and that the rate of pay reflects the minimum wage rate for teens. According to the Illinois Department of Labor, workers under 18 can be paid .50 per hour less than the adult minimum wage. Employees that routinely receive tips as part of their job are paid less than non-tipped employees.

While employment teaches teens good work habits and workplace skills, remember that their primary job as a teen is to become an educated adult and their schoolwork should not suffer for a paycheck.

Disclaimer: The content contained in this column is for informational use only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should not rely upon the information discussed in this column for an analysis of your legal issue. If you have a legal question, please call The Ankin Law Office for a confidential telephone consultation; toll-free: (800) 442-6546 Local: (312) 346-8780. Please feel free to visit our website at:

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