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Child Labor Laws in Illinois

Under what circumstances can you legally hire a 15-year-old employee in Illinois? What is the difference if the young applicant is 17 years old? The Illinois Child Labor Law establishes several separate classes of minors with different hiring eligibility conditions. The Law does not apply to children employed on farms or in domestic service in private homes.

Age Restrictions

The general age restrictions of the Law permit children to deliver or sell newspapers or other merchandise. Children who are 13 years of age or older may be employed as golf caddies. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 are generally employable, provided their employment does not interfere with school attendance.

Additional important restrictions regulate the kinds of workplaces, the times of day, and the number of hours that children may work. Children under 16 may not be employed in any manufacturing or mechanical occupation or process. They may not be involved with "heavy work" in building trades or on scaffolding. They may not operate any motor vehicle of any kind or work in a mine or quarry.

Children under 16 may not work in any dangerous job or in any job that could be "injurious to health or morals." They may not work in gas stations, certain railroad jobs, certain manufacturing jobs, or certain construction jobs, nor as public messengers. They may not work in entertainment areas, such as bowling alleys or amusement parks, nor may they be directly involved in handling or serving alcohol. Children under 16 may work busing tables or as kitchen help in connection with serving food at private clubs and at fraternal or veterans organizations.

Times and Hours

The limitations on the times of day and the hours of work permitted for minors are detailed. Children under 16 may not work for more than 8 hours per day, or for more than 6 consecutive days in a week, or in excess of 48 hours in a week. Children under 16 may not work more than 3 hours on a school day or in excess of 24 hours in the school week. They may work on Saturday and Sunday for up to 8 hours each day if they do not work outside of school for more than 6 consecutive days per week and if their work hours outside of school do not exceed 24.

The Law includes specific, separate regulations for child actors and models and for young people involved in volunteer corps and park district jobs. Additionally, the Law includes limitations on late-night hours and the length of permissible work hours between breaks. Some expansion of permissible work hours during summer school vacations is permitted.

Working Papers

As a prerequisite to employment, all children under 16 must have an "employment certificate," which is valid for up to one year. Employment certificates, sometimes generally referred to as "working papers," are issued by school district superintendents and their agents. An application for a certificate must be made by the child, who must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or legal custodian. The prospective employer must also include a statement of intention of the nature of the employment and the exact hours and number of days per week the minor will be employed. The application must be accompanied by certification from a physician or nurse practitioner that the child is physically fit for employment. Also, the child's age must be established by documentation.

An employment certificate is issued to the employer and must be retained by the employer throughout the child's employment. The employer must return the certificate to the issuing official at the conclusion of the employment period. Employers are bound by significant additional reporting and recordkeeping requirements under the Law.

If an employer, parent, guardian, or custodian violates the Law, he or she may be fined up to $5,000 and also may be subject to criminal penalties for a Class A misdemeanor for each day of the violation that is considered a separate offense.

Before you hire children, it is important that you carefully review the restrictions of the Law as to the particular child, the job, the work hours, and the conditions of the employment relationship you are seeking to establish. Never permit any employment relationship regulated by the Law to commence before you have the necessary employment certificate. Your reporting requirements and recordkeeping obligations vary, based on the circumstances, and are clearly explained in the Law.

If your child is working or is looking for a job, you should take steps to be sure that his or her employment is in compliance with the Illinois Child Labor Law.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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