Massachusetts’ Labor Laws: 14 Things Your Teen Employees Can’t Do at Work

By: Debra Gerraughty, CISR, CRIS, CPIA, MLIS

Debbie has more than 28 years of experience in the insurance industry. She enjoys working in the Commercial Lines Department learning new information every day and helping her customers.

If you own a business that relies on part-time, seasonal employees, you probably employ some teenagers. By far, the vast majority of working teens are employed in leisure and hospitality roles: waitress, caterer, lifeguard, etc. Teens are frequently on the summer payroll in retail, construction, childcare, and other sectors, too.

Are you preparing to grow your staff this June? Read this blog post first!

We checked with the Office of Labor and Workforce Development to compile some quick reminders on Massachusetts’ labor laws. If you employ any workers under age 18, here’s a summary of what they can’t do:

1. Work without an employment permit.

Yup, that’s right. If your new hire is age 14-17, he or she must secure a Massachusetts employment permit. As the employer, it’s your job to keep the original permit on file at your jobsite until employment is terminated, or until the minor reaches the age of 18.

2. Work late at night.

Employees under age 16 can’t work past 7PM during the school year, or past 9PM from July through Labor Day. Teens under 18 can’t work past 10PM during the school year, or past midnight from July through Labor Day.

3. Work super early.

Don’t expect your teenage employees to join the rest of the crew at dawn; 14 and 15-year-olds can’t start work before 7AM; 16 and 17-year-olds can’t start before 6AM.

4. Work a ton of hours.

Don’t schedule any double shifts! Teens under 16 cannot work more than 40 hours in a week, more than 6 days in a week, or more than 8 hours in one day. Even for those under the age of 18, working hours are limited to 48 per week, 6 days per week, and no more than 9 hours per day.

5. Drive a car, truck, or fork lift as part of their job duties.

Obviously, asking an unlicensed teen employee to drive a motor vehicle would be against the law. But did you know that even licensed teens (16 and 17-year-olds) are typically restricted from making deliveries or running errands for an employer? What’s more, if a minor employee is injured under these circumstances, your MA workers’ compensation insurance most likely would not cover you.

6. Sell, handle, or serve alcoholic beverages.

Employees must be at least 18 years old to tend bar. Further, workers under 18 may not directly handle, sell, mix, or serve alcohol—that includes waiters or waitresses carrying drinks on a tray.

7. Load or unload trucks (if under age 16).

Far too many injuries occur around the loading dock—from back issues, to crushed limbs, to slips and falls. Keep younger teens away from your commercial vehicles and vendor shipments.

8. Work in roofing, excavation, or demolition.

Roofing is dangerous work. Ditto for site prep involving heavy-duty machinery. It makes sense to leave these jobsites to adult professionals.

9. Work in amusement facilities, like pool halls or bowling alleys (if under age 16).

Amusement places may not seem like dangerous work zones, but their patrons can become rowdy. Younger teens are prohibited from working in these spots. For different reasons, teens under 16 are also prohibited from working in barber shops.

10. Clean or operate a power-driven meat slicer.

Attention restaurateurs: the California club sandwich may be your summer special… just don’t ask a teenage employee to slice those cold cuts.

11. Work in a freezer or meat cooler (if under age 16).

Remember that Brady Bunch episode where Greg and Bobby get stuck in the meat locker? It never would have happened if Sam the Butcher was following Massachusetts labor laws…

12. Work on a ladder (if under age 16).

Younger teens can’t work on ladders at all. Older teens (16 and 17) can work on ladders so long as they aren’t working on a roof, and are less than 30 feet off the ground.

13. Work unaccompanied after 8PM.

At night, minor employees must be in the company of an adult supervisor, who is reasonably accessible at all times.

14. Work for six hours without a break.

Per Massachusetts’ labor laws, employers must provide a thirty-minute meal break during each work shift that lasts more than six hours. The half-hour meal break is unpaid. Employers are not required to provide rest breaks, but many do to help employees avoid burnout.

Do you have a specific job in mind for a high school student? Do you need help ensuring all the job duties are legally compliant? Call our team at 508.339.2951! Meanwhile, for a complete list of Massachusetts labor laws pertaining to minor employees, visit

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