515-223-5119 info@ineda.com

[Author: Bob Evnen | 2015; R-2017 | Keywords: Human Resources, Youth, Employment]

School is nearly out, which means young people will be seeking summer jobs. The employment of people under the age of 18 comes with several rules and is closely regulated by both the federal and state governments. Following is a brief outline to provide you with a basic understanding of the compliance world when it comes to employing young people under the age of 18.


The hours 14- and 15- year olds can work vary depending on the season, with greater restrictions on start times, daily hours and weekly work hours from the day after Labor Day until June 1st. Since summer is nearly upon us, this article will only address regulations for the period of June 1 through Labor Day.

Under federal law, 14- and 15- year olds may not be employed:

  • earlier than 7:00 a.m.
  • later than 9:00 p.m.
  • more than eight hours in a day
  • more than 40 hours in a week from June 1 to Labor Day

While Nebraska state law allows an earlier start time, later end time, and longer workweek than those listed above, these rules only apply to employers who aren’t covered by federal law. Most, if not all, I-NEDA members are covered by federal law, so Nebraska’s more expansive rules will not be applicable.

There are no federal restrictions on the hours that can be worked by young people age 16 and older. Iowa follows the federal restrictions except in limited circumstances for young people 16 and older that probably wouldn’t apply to I-NEDA members.

Type of Work Allowed

14- & 15- Year Olds

The type of work permitted for 14- and 15- year olds is very limited. Acceptable work includes: office and clerical work, cashiering, assembling orders, packing and shelving. In addition, clean-up work is okay as long as they do not operate power-driven machinery or perform duties inside the working areas of the repair shop.

On the other hand, work not permitted for 14- and 15- year olds includes: assisting with the repair or maintenance of power-driven machinery or equipment; working around power-driven machinery and equipment; and hazardous occupations 16- and 17- year olds are prohibited from performing (see below).

16- & 17- Year Olds

Sixteen- and 17- year olds are restricted from occupations determined to be hazardous by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. (Over the years, the Secretary has issued 17 Hazardous Occupation Orders.)

From the perspective of businesses that sell and service equipment, these orders generally prohibit young people from driving; serving as a helper on a motor vehicle; or operating power-driven saws, shears, cutters or discs. In addition, 16- and 17- year olds are forbidden from using power-driven hoisting apparatuses or forklifts, and power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines.

If you are uncertain about whether a particular job is acceptable or not, contact the Human Resource Helpline at (877) 277-5575.

Work Permits

Before young workers can be employed in both Iowa and Nebraska, employers are required to obtain work permits for 14- and 15- year olds, and proof of age for those 16- and 17- years old.

In Iowa, work permits are issued by the superintendent of schools where the child attends or by the Iowa Department of Workforce Development. Obtaining work permits is a multi-step process, which requires the employer to 1) fill out an application, 2) obtain signatures from the parent and youth, and 3) return the completed application to the local superintendent of schools or the Iowa Workforce Development Department for final review and approval.

For older kids, the Certificate of Age – which protects the employer from claims that a young person is under 16- years of age – is also issued by the superintendent of the local school district orthe Iowa Workforce Development Department.

Nebraska’s rules are similar. Employment certificates must be obtained from the superintendent of schools or the Nebraska Department of Labor for 14- and 15- year old employees. In addition, Nebraska employers of 14- and 15- year olds must post a notice in the young persons’ work area that states the hours they are to work each day, including start and stop times and the time allowed for meals.

While Nebraska does not have an actual Certificate of Age, it does require employers to prove the age of a young person within 10 days of a request to do so. (The absence of such proof can lead to severe penalties.)

These rules should be treated with great seriousness. Noncompliance carries possible criminal action, and the civil fines can quickly mount into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage for young workers is the same as anyone else, currently $7.25 per hour in Iowa and $8.00 in Nebraska. (Nebraska’s minimum wage increases to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016.) For the first 90 days of employment in Iowa employees may be paid a “sub-minimum” wage of $6.35 per hour. In Nebraska, employees under 20 years of age may be paid a minimum of $5.44 per hour during their first consecutive 90 days of employment.

(Note: It is unlawful to completely or partially displace another employee by hiring a young worker and paying this sub-minimum wage.) There also is a training wage (which is lower than the minimum wage) that might apply, but only for student learners who are enrolled in bona fi de vocational training programs.

It is important to note that many of these restrictions do not apply to young people employed by their parents. Being supervised by a parent, however, is not the same as being employed by a parent. It may also be of interest to note that your customers in agriculture have a different set of rules for employing young people on the farm.

When federal wage/hour investigators audit businesses, one of their focuses is compliance with child labor laws. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While it’s a great experience for kids to work for you, careful thought must be given to these regulations.

Still have questions? Call the toll-free Human Resource Helpline at (855) 277-5575 for assistance.