Home → Labor Laws
The publications of the Maine Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Standards are made available as a public service and reliance on any such informaiton is at the user's own risk. The Department, its agencies, officers and employees do not warrant the accuracy, reliability, completeness or timeliness of any information herein and may not be held liable for any losses or other consequences caused by any person's reliance on such information. The text included in this publication reflects the law and/or rules in effect at the time of publication, but is subject to change without notice. Contact the Department for updated information.
The Maine Department of Labor provides equal opportunity in employment and programs. Auxiliary aids and services provided upon request to individuals with disabilitities.
Telephone: (207) 623-7900
TTY: Maine relay 711
Fax: (207) 623-7934
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:
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 M.R.S.A. 701-785 §771- §786). 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:
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:
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.
2. History of Maine Child Labor Laws
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 require ments 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 and again in 2003 to better protect minors from the hazards they face at work.*
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.
4. Work Permits
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:
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.
5. School Attendance
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.
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.
6. Legal Work Hours for Minors
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:A. Minors under 16 years old
Work HoursB. 16- and 17-Year Olds (enrolled in school, including home-school)
6. Minimum Age for Employment
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.
7. Maine Prohibited Occupations
Rules Governing Hazardous Occupations for Minors under Eighteen
Effective Date: May 14, 2001
Minors under the age of 16 may not be employed in the following occupations:
Minors who are 16 and 17 years old may not be employed in the following occupations:
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. For more information, call Liquor Enforcement at 624-8745.C. Apprentices and Student Learners
Under certain conditions, apprentices and student learners may work at the following prohibited occupations:
To qualify for the above exemptions, the following conditions must be met:
Minors who are under 16 MAY:
Minors who are under 16 MAY NOT:
Minors who are 16 and 17 MAY:
8. Federal Prohibited Occupations
A. Prohibited Occupations
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.
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.’B. Farm Labor
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.C. Federal Contracts
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).
A. Child actors â€” Maine has no minimum age and no hourly restrictions for child actors, but they must have work permits if under the age of 16.
B. Agriculture â€” 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:
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.
11. School-Based Learning Programs
A. 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.
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 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.
12. Employer/Employee Relationships
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.
13. Enforcement of Maine Child Labor Laws
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.
14. Minimum Wage and Record Keeping requirements
15. Safety and Health
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.
16. Discrimination and Harassment
A. Unlawful discrimination
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.B. 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.C. Sexual Harassment
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.D. Whistleblower Protection
It is against the law for an employer to fire, threaten, retaliate or discriminate against an employee for:
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 Whistleblowerâ€™s Protection Act should be reported to the Maine Human Rights Commission at 207-624-6290.
17. Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation Insurance
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.
18. Drug Testing
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:
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.
19. Compliance Assistance
The Maine Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division provides compliance assistance with child labor laws.
See Section XXIV: Resources for agency contact information.
20. Frequently Asked Questions about Child Labor Laws
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?
Q. Are the child labor laws any different if you are hiring your own son or daughter?
Q. Do OSHA regulations apply to minors?
Q. If an employer complies with Maine law, does that guarantee compliance with Federal law, or vice versa?
Q. Can 14- or 15-year olds have more than one job?
Q. If a 14- or 15-year old changes jobs, does he or she need a new work permit?
Q. What is the employer’s responsibility regarding work permits?
Q. What cooking may minors under 16 years old do?
Q. What is considered a manufacturing occupation for child labor law purposes?
Q. Can minors work at a water slide, a ski area, or a boat rental?
Q. Minors under 18 years old are not allowed to work alone at a cash-based business. What is a cash-based business? What does working alone mean?
Q. Who is considered a “junior firefighter?”
Q. Is the Boy Scout Explorer program covered by the junior firefighter rules?
Child labor laws, wages, hiring and firing:
Workplace health and safety:
Unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, or the protection of workers with disabilities:
Scroll To Top