Maine Laws Governing the Employment of Minors
Youth Employment laws protect minors from working in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. They also ensure that work does not compromise the education of minors. These laws include:
- minimum ages for employment
- work permits
- hours of work
- prohibited occupations
Employers who employ minors (youths under 18 years old) must ensure that working conditions meet the requirements of all four areas.
This booklet provides general information on Maine youth employment laws (Title 26 MRS ss771- ss786). The information in this booklet should not be considered as official statements or interpretations of the law.
Employers can obtain a complete copy of Maine’s youth employment laws from:
- Maine Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division 45 State House Station Augusta, Maine 04333-0045 207-623-7900 • TTY users call Maine Relay 711
- Maine Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
45 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333
TTY users call Maine Relay 711
Businesses may be covered by Maine youth employment laws, federal youth employment laws, or both. When both federal and state laws apply, employers must follow the law that provides the most protection for the minor.
Employers can learn if federal laws cover their businesses and obtain information on federal laws from:
- U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
By understanding and complying with the rules governing the employment of minors, employers, teachers, and parents can help ensure teens have safe and positive work experiences.
The Maine Department of Labor can help with information and training on the employment of minors.
- Maine first passed a child labor law during the industrial revolution when child labor and sweatshops were on the rise. The 1847 law addressed the amount of formal schooling a child must have in order to work. The intent of the legislation was to prevent the exploitation of children and to emphasize the importance of education.
- Truancy laws passed in 1887 required children under 15 to attend at least 16 weeks of school in a school year to work in manufacturing and mechanical workplaces.
- Social reforms at the turn of the century focused attention on the conditions under which children were working. Maine began inspecting businesses for sanitation, hours of labor, and other conditions harmful to children.
- In 1915, the Maine Legislature stipulated that children under 14 could not work during the hours that public schools were in session. The law also required working papers for children 14 to 16 years old.
- The 1940s and 1950s saw great technological advances and business expansion. To protect children, the Maine Legislature enacted stricter youth employment laws. Recognizing the value of education to the growing economy, educational requirements for working minors were strengthened.
- Changes to youth employment laws and educational attendance requirements passed in 1991 addressed persistent problems of low graduation and high truancy and dropout rates in Maine schools.
- The list of occupations prohibited for minors was revised in 2001, 2003, and 2018 to be more aligned with Federal Restrictions.
Each employer must display, where workers can see it, a poster that summarizes child labor laws. The poster is available free from the Maine Department of Labor and can be downloaded and printed from the Maine Department of Labor web page: www.Maine.gov/labor/posters.
Minors under 16 years old must obtain a work permit before beginning a job. This includes home-schoolers. 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.
In order to apply for a work permit, the minor must be:
- enrolled in school;
- not habitually truant or under suspension; and
- passing a majority of courses during the current grading period.
Employers must have a stamped, approved work permit on file before allowing any minor under 16 years old to work.
Once the minor has the promise of a job, she or he must take proof of age to the office of the superintendent of schools. Parental permission is required to work.
The superintendent’s office will complete the permit and submit the form to the Maine Department of Labor. A copy of the Maine Work Permit Form can be downloaded here. The Department will review the permit to ensure that the minor is of legal age to work at the business and that the occupation is not hazardous. If the permit is in order, the Department will validate the form, and return a copy to the superintendent’s office. The superintendent’s office will provide a copy for the employer.
The minor cannot work until the Department of Labor approves the permit.
The Department of Labor issues permits for specific jobs with specific employers. Permits are not transferable to other jobs or employers. A minor under 16 needs a separate work permit for each place he or she works.
A minor can have one active permit during the school year and two during the summer. Upon leaving a job, the minor or the employer should return the employer copy of the permit to the Department of Labor so that it can be deactivated.
- Maine compulsory education law requires all students to attend school until age 17. The local school board must grant special permission for a minor under 17 years old to drop out of school.
- A minor under 16 who has been granted such permission still must have a work permit; hourly and prohibited occupations restrictions also apply.
- Hourly restrictions do not apply to 16- or 17-year olds no longer enrolled in school. Occupational restrictions apply to all minors whether or not they are enrolled in school.
- Minors under 17 cannot work during the hours that school is in session unless they have the school’s permission for early release from school or they are in an approved program.
Employers must keep daily time records for minors. The records must show what time the minor began work, total hours worked, and what time the minor finished for the day.
Child labor laws specify how early, how late and how long minors can work. See below for details.
Following are the hours and times minors may work:
Minors under 16 years old
- 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
16- and 17-Year Olds (enrolled in school, including home-school)
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 16- and 17-year olds.
- Work hours (may work)
- After 7 a.m. on a school day
- After 5 a.m. on a nonschool 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 (may work)
- 6 hours on a school day;
- 8 hours on the last school day of the week - there are some exceptions for co-op (work-study) students, and students with an alternative education plan with a work component.
- 10 hours a day on weekends, holidays, vacations, teacher workshops
- 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
- May NOT work more than 6 days in a row
- Students enrolled in an approved alternative education plan or an approved cooperative/vocational education program can work the daily or weekly hours required for the program without having those hours count toward the regular maximums allowed. For example, a 17-year-old student could work 15 hours under a cooperative/vocational education plan plus the 24 hours that the law would normally allow for a student under 18 years old.
- The following are exempt from all of the State hourly restrictions:
- A minor employed in the planting, cultivating or harvesting of field crops or other agricultural employment not in direct contact with hazardous machinery or substances. (Federal child labor laws for agriculture are different. See Section IX. Federal Prohibited Occupations.)
- A minor working as an employed or in-training actor;
- A minor working at a children’s camp;
- A minor who is legally emancipated;
- Minors employed in fishing occupations or in the operation of ferries or excursion boats are exempt from the weekly and hourly restrictions only while school is not in session.
Maine law states at what age minors may work in specific industries. Minimum ages under Federal law are different. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division at 780-3344 (Portland) or 945-0330 (Bangor) for details.
- 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; and in all of the industries allowed for younger minors.
- Minors Who are 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.
- Minors Who are 14: May work in nonhazardous jobs in restaurants, in sporting and overnight camps, stores, filling stations, ice cream stands and laundromats. They also 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 Who are Under 14: A minor under 14 years of age may not be employed, permitted or suffered to work in nonagricultural or agricultural employment, except for agricultural employment in the planting, cultivating or harvesting of field crops or other agricultural employment not in direct contact with hazardous machinery or hazardous substances as long as the employment is in accordance with rules adopted pursuant to section 772 and in accordance with 29 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 570.
This section does not apply to any minor under 14 years of age employed in school lunch programs, if limited to serving food and cleaning up dining rooms, or in a business solely owned by the minor’s parents. A parent is prohibited from employing the parent’s minor child in occupations declared hazardous by the director.
Effective Date: August 21, 2018
Coverage: These rules apply to all nonagricultural employment and nonemployment situations. Non-employment situations include, but are not limited to, legitimate training and volunteer programs that ensure the safety and wellbeing of minors. These rules do not apply to minors in public and approved private schools where mechanical equipment is installed and operated primarily for the purpose of instruction.
Minors Under 16 Years of Age
Minors under the age of 16 may not be employed in the following occupations:
- Any manufacturing occupation;
- Any mining occupation;
- Any processing occupation (except those allowed in retail, food service and gasoline service stations, and all other venues not prohibited by federal law);
- Motor vehicle driving of any kind and outside helper;
- Operation or tending of hoisting apparatus or of any power-driven machinery other than non-hazardous office machines or machines in retail, food service and gasoline service establishments that are allowed by federal law;
- Construction occupations involving:
- Maintenance and repair of public highways;
- All roofing occupations;
- All trenching and excavation operations;
- All work in boiler or engine rooms;
- Outside window washing that involves working from window sills and all work involving the use of ladders, scaffolds or their substitutes;
- Cooking (except at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars or cafeteria serving counters and other venues allowed by federal law) and baking;
- Occupations which involve operating, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing power driven food slicers and grinders, food choppers and cutters and bakery type mixers;
- All work in freezers and meat coolers;
- Occupations involving the use of power driven mowers or cutters, including the use of chain saws;
- All warehousing occupations, including the loading and unloading of trucks and use of conveyers;
- All welding, brazing or soldering occupations;
- Occupations involving the use of toxic chemicals and paints;
- Selling door-to-door (except when the minor is selling candy or merchandise as a fund-raiser for school or for an organization to which the minor belongs, such as Girl Scouts of America) or work in a traveling youth crew;
- All occupations on amusement rides, including ticket collection or sales;
- Any placement at the scene of a fire, explosion or other emergency response situation: and
- All occupations that are expressly prohibited for sixteen and seventeen-year-old minors.
16- and 17-Year Olds
Minors who are 16 and 17 years old may not be employed in the following occupations:
- Manufacturing and storing explosives;
- Motor vehicle driving on public roadways and outside helper;
- All mining occupations;
- Power-driven woodworking machines;
- Power-driven hoisting apparatus;
- Power-driven metal forming, punching and shearing machines;
- Slaughtering or meat packing, processing or rendering occupations (this includes meat slicers, grinders and choppers);
- Power-driven paper products machines;
- Manufacturing brick, tile, and kindred products;
- Power-driven circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears;
- Wrecking and demolition occupations;
- Roofing operations;
- Excavation operations;
- All occupations in places having nude entertainment;
- Placement at the scene of a fire, explosion or other emergency except as provided in part 4(C) & 4(E);
- Gas or electric welding, brazing, burning or cutting if done in conjunction with other hazardous occupation such as wrecking, demolition and shipbreaking operations;
- Work that involves entry into a confined space where the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require a permit entry system under 29 CFR 1910.146 as amended August 1, 2003; and
- Working at heights where the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require special precautions or personal protective equipment:
- Walking working surfaces more than 4 feet above the next closest surface without a standard railing as required under 29 CFR 1910.23 as amended August 1, 2003.
- Fixed ladders of more than 20 feet in height; and
- Scaffolding work performed more than 10 feet above the working surface supporting the scaffold where railings or fall protection is required under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration 29 CRF 1910.28 as amended August 1, 2003.
- All occupations in registered dispensaries of marijuana for medical use authorized under Title 22, chapter 558-C and in establishments that cultivate, produce or sell marijuana or products in which marijuana is an ingredient or in recreational marijuana social clubs authorized under Title 7, chapter 417.
NOTE: The Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement prohibits teens under 18 from handling, serving, or selling alcoholic beverages. Exceptions: 15-year olds can handle liquor (for example, stocking and carrying) but not serve or sell it and 17-year olds can serve or sell liquor if a supervisor 21 or older is present, 14 year olds may only bus tables. For more information, call Liquor Enforcement at 624-8745.
Limited Exemption for 17 Year Old Employees
- Seventeen-year-olds, but no one under 17 years of age, may drive automobiles and trucks on public roads as part of their employment on an occasional and incidental basis if all the following requirements are met:
- The automobile or truck does not exceed 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight;
- The driving is limited to daylight hours;
- The 17-year-old holds a state license valid for the type of driving involved;
- The 17-year-old has successfully completed a state-approved driver education course and has no record of any moving violations at the time of hire;
- The driving takes place within a thirty (30) mile radius of the minor’s place of employment;
- The automobile or truck is equipped with a seat belt for the driver and any passengers and the employer has instructed the youth that the seat belts must be used when driving the vehicle;
- The driving may not involve: towing vehicles; route deliveries or route sales; transportation for hire of property, goods, or passengers; urgent, time-sensitive deliveries; transporting more than three passengers, including employees or the employer; more than two trips away from the primary place of employment in any single day to deliver the employer’s goods to a customer (other than urgent, time-sensitive deliveries which are prohibited); more than two trips away from the primary place of employment in a single day to transport passengers, other than employees of the employer.
- The following definitions shall apply to Section 4 of these Rules:
- “Motor vehicle” shall mean any automobile, truck, truck tractor, trailer, semitrailer, motorcycle, or similar vehicle propelled or drawn by mechanical power and designed for use as a means of transportation but shall not include any vehicle operated exclusively on rails.
- “Driver” shall mean any individual who in the course of employment, drives a motor vehicle at any time.
- “Outside helper” shall mean any individual, other than a driver, whose work includes riding on a motor vehicle outside the cab for the purpose of assisting in transporting or delivering goods.
- “Gross vehicle weight” includes the truck chassis with lubricants, water, and full tank or tanks of fuel, plus the weight of the cab or driver’s compartment, body, and special chassis and body equipment, and payload.
- “Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries” shall mean trips which, because of such factors as customer satisfaction, the rapid deterioration of the quality or change in temperature of the product, and/or economic incentives, are subject to timeliness, schedules, and/or turnaround times which might impel the driver to hurry in the completion of the delivery. Prohibited trips would include, but are not limited to, the delivery of pizzas and prepared foods to the customer, the delivery of materials under a deadline (such as deposits to a bank at closing), and the shuttling of passengers to and from transportation depots to meet transport schedules. “Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries” do not depend on the delivery’s points of origin and termination, an include the delivery of people and things to the employer’s place of business as well as from that business to come other location.
- “Occasional and incidental” shall mean not more than one-third of the 17-year-old driver’s worktime in any workday and no more than 20 percent of the 17-year-old driver’s worktime in any workweek.
Apprentices and Student Learners
Under certain conditions, apprentices and student learners may work at the following prohibited occupations:
- the operation of power-driven woodworking, paper products, and metal-forming, -punching and -shearing machines;
- slaughtering or meatpacking, processing or rendering;
- operation of power-driven circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears;
- roofing operations;
- excavation operations; and
- welding, brazing, and soldering.
To qualify for the above exemptions, the following conditions must be met:
- Must be employed in a craft recognized as an apprenticeable trade and registered by the U.S. Department of Labor or Maine Department of Labor;
- The hazardous work is incidental to the training;
- The hazardous work is intermittent, for short periods of time, and under the direct and close supervision of a journeyman.
- Must be enrolled in a course of study and training in a cooperative or vocational training program under a recognized State or local educational authority or in a similar private school program; and
- Must be employed under a written agreement that provides:
- That the hazardous work must be incidental to the training;
- That the hazardous work must be intermittent, for short periods of time, and under the direct and close supervision of a qualified and experienced person;
- That both the school and employer give safety instruction; and
- A schedule of organized and progressive work processes to be performed on the job.
Minors who are under 16 MAY:
- Perform nonhazardous duties at the fire station;
- Ride in the cab of the fire apparatus responding to an emergency scene;
- Attend training sessions. However, if the training is deemed hazardous, an instructor shall supervise the minor;
- Participate in nonhazardous duties only within the rehabilitation area at the scene of an actual emergency.
Minors who are under 16 MAY NOT:
- Perform any hazardous duties at the fire station;
- Ride outside of the cab of any fire apparatus;
- Perform any hazardous work at the scene of an accident;
- Fight fires (except in training as above).
Minors who are 16 and 17 MAY:
- Ride as a passenger in the cab of a fire truck or in an emergency vehicle;
- With proper training, fight ground fires when they are directly supervised, except ground fires which involve an existing “crown fire” exposure;
- Perform patient care (for which they are licensed) in an emergency vehicle or at the scene of an accident or other emergency.
- Attend and take part in supervised training.
- Participate in fire department functions wthin the rehabilitation area of an emergency scene. This could include setting up the engine, assisting in water supply efforts, and other support functions, which do not expose the Junior Firefighter to hazardous areas or atmospheres.
- Pick up hose and clean up at the fire scene after it has been declared safe by the Incident Commander.
- Enter a structure only when accompanied by an adult firefighter once the structure has been determined safe by the Incident Commander.
- Perform search and rescue activities, other than structural firefighting.
- Operate a fire pump located outside the danger zone at the direction of the Incident Commander.
- Use pressurized hose lines if properly trained, under the direction of an Incident Commander, and out of the danger area.
Minors who are 16 and 17 MAY NOT:
- Perform fire suppression involving structures or vehicles.
- Drive fire department or emergency vehicles.
- Respond with operating red lights (drive any vehicle, including their own car with attached operating red lights) to the scene of a fire or emergency.
- Perform firefighting “overhaul” activities (except when the structure has been declared safe by the Incident Commander and then only with adult firefighter).
- Respond to Hazardous Material events (except for support functions within the cold zone).
- Perform any activity (except training) which involves the use of self-contained breathing apparatus.
- Participate or assist in any extrication activities at the scene of an accident or emergency (except in the capacity of a support function).
- Participate in any activities at the scene of an accident or emergency where fire is involved, unless they are performing support functions from outside the danger area.
- Participate in actual “ice rescue” activities, but may provide assistance within any designated rehabilitation area or as a support member on dry land only.
- Direct traffic at the scene of a fire or other emergency.
- Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 17 Hazardous Orders in Nonagricultural Occupations prohibit the employment of youth under 18 in certain occupations in certain businesses.
- Maine prohibited occupations include most of the Federal prohibited occupations, as well as several prohibitions not covered by Federal law. Federal law prohibits youth under 18 from only a few occupations which Maine law does not prohibit, such as:
- exposure to radioactive substances (prohibited in Maine under 16 years old); and
- operating power-driven bakery machines (prohibited in Maine under 16 years old).
- Employers who employ minors and are engaged in these activities should contact the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division at 780-3344 (Portland) or 945-0330 (Bangor). Request WH Publication #1330 ‘Child Labor Requirements in Nonagricultural Employment.’
- A Federal Hazardous Order sets occupational restrictions for agricultural workers under 16 years old employed in the production of goods for interstate commerce. The order lists 16 prohibited occupations, including working with certain power-driven farm machinery, operating a tractor with over 2O PTO (power-take-off) horsepower and working with explosives or certain chemicals. Request ‘Child Labor in Agriculture’ (WH publication 1295) from the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division at 780-3344 (Portland) or 945-0330 (Bangor).
- The prohibitions on child labor on farms do not apply to minors employed on a farm owned or operated by their parents or to students in a recognized vocational education training program. In addition, exemptions are provided for 4-H members who have completed designated training programs and participants in other approved farm training and education programs.
- In addition to the other prohibited occupations, youth under 16 may not be employed in the manufacture or furnishing of any article included in a U.S. Government contract in excess of $10,000 (Federal Public Contracts Act).
- Child actors — Maine has no minimum age and no hourly restrictions for child actors, but they must have work permits if under the age of 16.
- Agriculture — No work permit is required for field agricultural work. No minimum age, hourly restrictions or prohibited occupations apply in field occupations involving the planting, cultivating or harvesting of field crops under Maine law.
Individuals may volunteer under certain conditions:
- A volunteer cannot displace regularly paid employees doing the same tasks;
- The work must be for charitable, religious, or humanitarian purposes; and
- The volunteering must be done in nonprofit organizations only.
The minimum age laws and prohibited occupations rules apply whether the work is paid or voluntary. Minors do not need work permits for volunteer work.
The hourly limitations do not apply to volunteer work. However, the Maine Department of Labor recommends that minors who volunteer be kept to the same hourly limitations as minors who work for pay.
Cooperative Education Programs
Cooperative education programs (“Co-op”) are considered employment situations. Students are placed in businesses. A school coordinator evaluates and grades them on pre-assigned job duties and training tasks. The employer must pay students at least the minimum wage and comply with all applicable State & Federal laws.
Under Maine law, the hours worked in these types of programs are not counted against the hourly restrictions set for youth under the age of 18. (Federal laws are more restrictive for minors under the age of 16, regardless of school programs.)
School-to-Work Programs and Internships
When a school-to-work placement is an employment situation, the conditions are the same as for cooperative education programs. To qualify as an unpaid training situation or an unpaid internship, the following primary beneficiary test must be used:
- The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
- The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
- The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
- The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
- The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
- The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
- The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.
The primary beneficiary test is a flexible test and no single factor is determinative. Whether an intern or student is an employee necessarily depends on the unique circumstances of each case. Minimum age and prohibited occupation coverage apply whether or not it is an employment situation.
In most instances, an employment relationship exists when a person is allowed to perform work. (Maine labor law defines ‘employ’ as ‘to suffer or permit to work.’) Where there is an employment relationship, the employer falls under several State and Federal laws, including minimum wage, workers’ compensation, unemployment taxes, and payroll deductions for State and Federal taxes.
- The Maine Department of Labor enforces state child labor laws. Violations of child labor laws are very serious. Any violation of a child labor law is a civil violation subject to fines that range from $250 to $50,000 per incident.
- It is illegal for an employer to fire, threaten, retaliate against, or otherwise discriminate against an employee for reporting a suspected child labor violation to the Department of Labor. Complaints may be filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission (624-6290).
- Anyone can report a suspected child labor violation in writing to the Maine Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division or the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
See Section XXIII: Resources for agency contact information.
Comparison of Maine and Federal Child Labor Laws
When there is a difference between State and Federal law regarding child labor, the law that provides the most protection to the minor takes precedence. In most cases, Maine child labor laws provide more protection than Federal law. Several situations where Federal law is more protective than Maine law are noted in this guide. The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division can provide details of Federal law.
- Beginning January 1, 2021, the minimum wage is $12.15 per hour.
- Maine does not have a training wage or student wage below the minimum.
- As of January 1, 2021, tipped employees must be paid a direct service wage of at least $6.08 per hour. If this rate plus tips for the week do not average the minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.
- Each employee must receive a pay statement with each payment of wages showing the date of the pay period, hours worked, total wages paid, and itemized deductions.
- Employees get overtime pay of 1 1/2 times their hourly rate after 40 hours of work per week. This applies to most employees. A poster stating these rules must be shown in the workplace.
- Employers must keep daily time records for minors. The records must show what time the minor began work, what time the minor ended work, total hours worked, total wages paid and itemized deductions.
- Employees must be offered a 30-consecutive minute break for every six hours worked.
- Employers must pay wages to employees on an established day or date at regular intervals of no more than 16 days.
- Employees must be paid for the work performed. Employees who leave a job must be paid in full no later than the employee’s next established payday.
- Employers cannot deduct from an employee’s pay for things such as broken merchandise or bills not paid by customers.
- Maine is an “at will” state. An employee may be fired for any reason not prohibited by law unless he or she is covered by a collective bargaining agreement or other contract that limits firing.
- Employers may not discriminate on the basis of gender by paying a rate less than the rate paid an employee of the opposite sex for comparable work.
- “Cash under the table” is not legal.
- Most of the wage laws do not apply to agriculture.
- An employer who violates employment laws may have to pay penalties, additional wages and lawyers’ fees.
Employers must maintain safe and healthful work environments. State of Maine and Federal occupational safety and health regulations apply to employees regardless of age. Employers must train all employees about the hazards of their jobs and how to do their jobs safely.
- Employers must not discriminate against workers of any age because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, genetic pre-disposition, religion, ancestry or national origin. Discrimination should be reported to the Maine Human Rights Commission at 207-624-6290.
Workers with Disabilities
- The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Maine Human Rights Act protect workers who have disabilities. Employers may not discriminate against workers with disabilities in hiring or firing. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for such workers’ disabilities.
- Sexual harassment on the job is against the law. Retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment is also against the law. Sexual Harassment should be reported to the Maine Human Rights Commission at 207-624-6290.
- It is against the law for an employer to fire, threaten, retaliate or discriminate against an employee for:
- Reporting a law violation;
- Reporting a risk to health or safety;
- Refusing to do something that was life-threatening, after asking the employer to correct the problem;
- Being part of a government investigation; or
- Reporting a medical error if you are a healthcare worker.
The law applies only if the employee tells the employer about the problem and allows time for it to be fixed or if the employee has good reason to believe the employer will not correct the problem. Violations of the Whistleblower’s Protection Act should be reported to the Maine Human Rights Commission at 207-624-6290.
Unemployment insurance law provides for payment of benefits to qualified workers during periods of unemployment regardless of age. Workers’ compensation insurance gives benefits to workers who get hurt on the job regardless of age.
Employers can ask workers to take drug tests if Federal law requires it or if the company has a drug policy approved by the Maine Department of Labor.
Under the law, an employer can use a positive test result to:
- refuse to hire someone
- fire an employee (in some instances)
- discipline an employee (in some instances)
- change an employee’s work (in some instances)
Those who apply for jobs may be tested only if they are offered work or are placed on a waiting list for a job. Employers who test under the law must give those tested a copy of the policy prior to the test.
The Maine Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division provides compliance assistance with child labor laws.
See Section XXIV: Resources for agency contact information.
Q. Can a 16- or 17-year old who has quit school work more than four hours per day or 20 hours per week?
A. If the 16-year-old minor has been allowed to drop out of school, the hourly restrictions no longer apply. If a 17-year-old minor is no longer enrolled in school, the hourly restrictions no longer apply. The employer should obtain a letter from the superintendent of schools stating that the child is no longer enrolled in school and, if under 17, that he or she has been waived from compulsory education laws.
Q. If a 16- or 17-year-old minor is working toward a High School Equivalency Diploma, are his or her working hours restricted when school is in session?
A. If the minor has dropped out of the traditional school setting and is no longer “enrolled,” the hourly restrictions no longer apply. Again, the employer should get written confirmation from the superintendent that the minor has been allowed to drop out of school.
Q. Do child labor laws apply to 18-year olds who are still in high school?
A. No. Once a minor turns 18, none of the child labor laws apply, even if the person is still a student.
Q. Are the child labor laws any different if you are hiring your own son or daughter?
A. Work permit requirements, hours limitations and prohibited occupations rules apply even when hiring family members.
Q. Do OSHA regulations apply to minors?
A. Yes. OSHA regulations apply to workers regardless of age.
Q. If an employer complies with Maine law, does that guarantee compliance with Federal law, or vice versa?
A. Not in all cases. The law that is most restrictive and protects the employee the most is the one that applies.
Q. Can 14- or 15-year olds have more than one job?
A. 14- and 15-year olds need work permits in order to work. They are allowed one work permit during the school year and two in the summer.
Q. If a 14- or 15-year old changes jobs, does he or she need a new work permit?
A. Yes. A work permit is valid only for the occupation and business for which it is approved.
Q. What is the employer’s responsibility regarding work permits?
A. The employer must keep the approved copy of the work permit on file. Once the child is no longer working, the employer’s copy should be returned to the Maine Department of Labor.
Q. What cooking may minors under 16 years old do?
A. In most instances, minors may cook at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars or cafeteria serving counters if the public can view the cooking areas. Minors under 16 may not cook if the cooking area is away from the view of the public. Minors under 16 cannot bake or use ovens, including pizza ovens and convection ovens.
Q. What is considered a manufacturing occupation for child labor law purposes?
A. A process that changes the original product can be considered manufacturing. Child labor laws prohibit minors under 16 years old from working in processing or manufacturing areas except for waiting on customers or performing office work in a separate room.
Q. Can minors work at a water slide, a ski area, or a boat rental?
A. Minors under 16 years old may not work at a water slide because it is considered an amusement. Ski areas and boat rentals are considered recreation, so minors may work there.
Q. Who is considered a “junior firefighter?”
A. According to Maine law, anyone under 18 who is working as a firefighter or training to become a firefighter is considered a junior firefighter.
Q. Is the Boy Scout Explorer program covered by the junior firefighter rules?
A. If the program includes a junior firefighting program, all of the junior firefighter rules apply.
Child labor laws, wages, hiring and firing:
- Maine Department of Labor
(enforces Maine child labor laws)
Bureau of Labor Standards
Wage and Hour Division
(TTY: Maine relay 711)
web site: www.Maine.gov/labor/bls
- U.S. Department of Labor
(enforces Federal child labor laws)
Wage and Hour Division
780-3344 (Portland) or 945-0330 (Bangor)
web site: www.dol.gov/
Workplace health and safety:
Maine Department of Labor
623-7900 or 1-877-SAFE-345
(TTY: Maine relay 711)
web site: www.safetyworksmaine.gov
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
626-9160 (Augusta) or 941-8177 (Bangor)
web site: www.osha.gov/
- Maine Workers’ Compensation Board
287-2308 (TTY: Maine relay 711):
- Local Offices:
- Unemployment Call Center System:
- phone number: 1-800-593-7660
Unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, or the protection of workers with disabilities: