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Legal for Students to Work During the School Year?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Nearly 80 percent of students are working at least part-time during the school year, according to a new survey by Citigroup and Seventeen magazine. The data included students in high school, community college, online colleges, as well as public and private colleges and universities.

But is it legal for students to work? Generally yes; however, there are some legal limits employers need to know.

Here are some general guidelines:

Child Labor Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) governs child labor. The Department of Labor, which enforces the FSLA, states that generally, children under 14 cannot be hired by your business.

Hours worked by 14 and 15-year-olds are limited to:

  • Non-school hours;
  • Three hours on a school day and 18 hours in a school week;
  • Eight hours on a non-school day and 40 hours in a non-school week; and
  • The hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.).

However, 14- and 15-year-olds who are enrolled in an approved Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) may be employed for up to 23 hours during school weeks and three hours on school days (including during school hours).

The FLSA does not limit the number of hours or times of day for workers 16 years and older.

High School Student Restrictions

State laws are more demanding than the FLSA, so make sure your business is in compliance.

At the high school level, most states restrict students to 18 hours of work per week during the school year, according to the Department of Labor.

Most states have further restrictions on minors who are 17 and under when it comes to working at night. The restrictions generally cover the period from about 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

College Student Restrictions

Many colleges, on the other hand, recommend or even mandate that students only work 10 to 15 hours a week while classes are in session, reports ThinkProgress.

The survey findings fly in the face of these rules. On average, students work 19 hours a week, according to the study.

More troubling, the data indicated that many work well over 20 hours a week, and some even hold full-time jobs.

Since wage and hour restrictions depend heavily on your state, it may be best to contact an experienced employment lawyer near you if you have more legal questions about employing students during the school year.

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