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ThreeSixty: Know the rules when you get a job


If you’re under the age of 18 and plan on performing in any aerial or acrobatic acts, Don’t. You would be breaking state law. And if you’re under the age of 16, don’t even think about operating any sort of dry cleaning equipment, meat slicing machinery or even snow blowers. Perhaps it’s for the best that people under 16 just stay away from machines altogether.

Though they may sound slightly absurd, these are real child labor laws put in place to help protect Minnesota’s children from exploitation and out of harm’s way.

The rules can be overwhelming at first glance but by taking the time to break down and examine the laws, understanding them will be much easier for children, parents and employers alike.

What work can you do?
Minors under 14 can’t be employed except as newspaper carriers, agricultural workers, youth referees, actors or models.

To be a newspaper carrier or referee, the child must be at least 11 years old. To work in agriculture the child must be at least 12. There is no age restriction for child actors or models.

What work can’t you do?

Some interesting “no-no’s” for kids under 18 include:

• Working where chemicals or other substances are present at high temperatures or in explosive, toxic or flammable quantities.

• Working where explosives or fireworks are manufactured, stored, handled or fired.

• Working in or about logging or lumbering operations, paper mills, saw mills, lath mills or shingle mills; mines, quarries and sand or gravel pits; construction or building projects; ice harvesting operations.

• Working in building maintenance or repair higher than 12 feet above ground or floor level.

For children under 16 these are a few off-limit activities:

• Operating laundry, rug cleaning or dry-cleaning equipment.

• Working in or about an airport landing strip and taxi or maintenance aprons.

• Working in walk-in meat freezers or meat coolers (except for occasional entrance).

For a full list of the activities that minors are allowed to participate in, “go to”:

When can you do it?

Minors younger than 16 can’t work:

• Before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (with the exception of being a newspaper carrier)

• For more than 40 hours a week or more than eight hours per 24-hour period (except in agriculture).

• On school days during school hours, without an employment certificate issued by the school district superintendent.

Also, Minnesota state law instructs that 16- and 17-year-old high school students may not work after 11 p.m. on evenings before school days or before 5 a.m. on school days. However with written permission from a parent or guardian, these hours may be expanded to 11:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.

What happens if a law is broken?

An employer who fails to follow Minnesota child labor laws can be subject to following fines:

• $500 fine for employment of minors under the age of 14.

• $500 fine for employment of minors under the age of 16 during school hours while school is in session.

• $500 fine for employment of minors under the age of 16 before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. , for more than 8 hours a day or more than 40 hours a week.

• $250 fine for minors employed without proof of age.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, there are three. If a worker is a 17-year-old high school graduate, these rules do not apply. Also if a minor is employed at a business owned and daily supervised by at least one parent, child labor laws do not apply to them. Finally, if a minor is doing tasks outside the area of hazardous operations, equipment or materials, most of these labor laws won’t apply to them.

By understanding Minnesota’s child labor laws, employers, parents and minors alike will know exactly what they can and can’t do. At least they’ll learn when operating the meat slicer or flying throuth the air on a trapeze is okay.

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