Child Labor Law Compliance in the Restaurant Industry

Posted By: Susie Leggett Legal + Regulatory, Wage & Hour, Restaurant Operations, Risk Management, Safety & Security,

Child Labor Law Compliance in the Restaurant Industry

In 2023, there were over 2 million workers between the ages of 16 and 19 in the restaurant industry. As an employer, it is vital to ensure that you are providing a positive and safe work environment for children – the most vulnerable workers in the workplace. 

Since 2019 alone, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has seen an 88% increase in offenses related to child labor exploitation. Common violations of the child labor provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) include, but are not limited to: 

  • Working longer hours than legally permitted – review Georgia’s child labor work hour restrictions.
  • Compensation less than minimum wage.
  • Driving under the age of 18.
  • Using meat slicers, dough mixers, or other hazardous machinery. 
  • Paycheck deductions for tipped and minimum wage employees because of workplace breakages or required uniform purchases. 

To prevent violations from occurring in the first place, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) recently  partnered with the DOL to host an educational webinar, Child labor Law Compliance in the Foodservice Industry – here are the key takeaways:

Child labor protections by age:

  • Under 14 - limited to work that is exempt from the FLSA such as delivering newspapers to the consumer, acting, or casual baby-sitting. 
  • 14 and 15 - may only work outside school hours for a limited number of hours per day and per week; restrictions on type of work; any work not specifically permitted is prohibited. 
  • 16 and 17 - may be employed for unlimited hours but may NOT work in dangerous jobs.
  • 18 - no longer subject to Federal Child Labor Laws.

Dangerous industry jobs – Not permitted for children under 18:

  • Meat Processing – children cannot use meat slicers, saws, and meat choppers.
  • Bakery Machines – children cannot use, set up, or clean power-driven bakery machines such as vertical dough mixers.

Driving restrictions: 

  • Children cannot drive motor vehicles or work outside the vehicle as a driver's helper to assist with tasks such as loading, unloading, or securing cargo.
  • However, 17-year-olds can drive cars or small trucks during daylight hours for limited times and under strictly limited circumstances.


Can a 14 and 15-year-old operate an oven?

No - only 16 and up; 14 and 15-year-olds are not permitted to mix ingredients that are to be baked - this precludes them from working at pizza restaurants, for example. 

What are the working hour and curfew regulations for homeschooled students? 

Homeschooled students must adhere to the school hours established by the local school district of their home residence. 

Can teen workers use coffee espresso machines with steam wands?

16 and up - yes. 14 and 15-year-olds – ONLY permitted to operate dishwashers, coffee machines, coffee grinders, or food warmers (such as a microwave) as long as there is no risk of steam burns. 

Can parents provide written consent to waive teen curfew regulations?

For 14 and 15-year-olds, parental consent waivers are not permitted and the teen must adhere to curfew regulations. 


Employer Resources


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This is intended as general information only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.