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Child Labor Laws apply to all employees who are under 18 years of age. Once a person is 18, they are considered an adult.

The Texas Child Labor Laws make sure a child is not working in a job or way that could harm the child's safety, health, or well-being. Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) also has rules to make sure a job does not interfere with a child’s education. It is illegal to employ a child under 14 except under specific circumstances.

TWC or its designee may inspect a business during work hours if there is good reason to believe a child is currently employed or has been employed within the last two years. It is illegal to hinder an investigation knowingly or intentionally.

All businesses are subject to state law but only those businesses covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are subject to the federal law.

To determine if a business is covered under the FLSA, contact the local U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division or visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Some state laws may be less restrictive than the federal law. If your business is covered by the FLSA and follow a less restrictive provision, you will be violating federal law. If in doubt, or when both Federal and State laws apply, businesses should follow the stricter guidelines.

How to Submit a Complaint

Teen worker using table sawIf you have information that a child is in danger of injury on a job, call the TWC Wage and Hour Department. (Examples include: A child is asked to use a forklift, cardboard baler, or chainsaw.)

  • Call: 800-832-9243

If the child is not in danger of injury, submit a Child Labor Complaint form. 

Child Labor Complaint Form

Complete the form and return by mail, fax, or email. 

MailFaxEmail
TWC Wage and Hour Department
101 E 15th St, Rm 514
Austin, TX 78778-0001
512-524-6211child.labor@twc.texas.gov

Under the Texas Child Labor Law, TWC’s Wage and Hour Department investigates any child labor complaints and then issues a preliminary determination to the employer.

Penalties

It is a Class B misdemeanor to violate child labor law, except for employing a child to sell or solicit, which is a Class A misdemeanor. If a person employs a child who does not meet the minimum age requirement for a type of employment but did so in good faith relying on an apparently valid Certificate of Age form, then that may be a defense against prosecution.

If an employer violates child labor law, TWC may assess an administrative penalty against the employer up to $10,000 per violation in addition to criminal penalties.

Appeals

If an employer disagrees with TWC’s determination about the violation, the penalty, or both, they can appeal. 

  • If an employer disagrees with the preliminary determination, they must appeal to the Appeal Tribunal within 21 days. 
  • If an employer disagrees with the Appeal Tribunal decision, they may request a Motion for Rehearing within 14 days.
  • If an employer disagrees with the final TWC decision, they may file a Petition for Judicial Review within 30 days.

To learn more about the appeal process and deadlines to appeal,  see Texas Child Labor Law Appeals.

Injunctive Relief

The Attorney General may seek injunctive relief in district court against an employer who repeatedly violates child labor law requirements.

When a business is owned or operated by a parent or legal custodian, the parent or custodian may employ their own children at any age to work any hours, so long as the work is non-hazardous (not prohibited) and the child works under the parent or custodian’s direct supervision.

In addition, Texas Child Labor Law does not apply to employment of a child who is:

child holding newspapers
  • Engaged in non-hazardous casual employment that will not endanger the safety, health, or well-being of the child and where a parent or legal custodian has allowed.
    • Casual employment is work that is unscheduled and nonrecurring.
    • Non-hazardous employment involves work that neither the federal government nor TWC have determined is dangerous to the safety, health, or well-being of a child. For more information, see the sections below about prohibited and permitted occupations.
  • 11 years or older delivering newspapers on a newspaper route (exemption does not include direct sales).
  • 16 years or older employed in the direct sale of newspapers to the general public.
  • Participating in a school-supervised and school-administered work-study program approved by TWC.
  • Employed through a rehabilitation program supervised by a county judge.
  • Employed in agriculture during a time when the child is not legally required to be attending school. Employment in agriculture means engaged in producing crops or livestock and includes:
    • Cultivating and tilling the soil.
    • Producing, cultivating, growing, and harvesting an agricultural or horticultural commodity.
    • Dairying.
    • Raising livestock, bees, fur-bearing animals, or poultry.

There are some restrictions on employment.

Minimum Age

It is illegal to employ a child under 14 except under specific circumstances described on this page.

Child actor

Performer Exemption

Children under 14 may work as actors or performers in motion pictures, or in a theatrical, radio or television production, with TWC authorization. The parent or legal custodian must submit the Application for Child Actor/Performer Authorization form.

Child Actor Form

Solicitation

Soliciting is considered a hazardous occupation. It is illegal to:

  • Employ anyone under 14 and unaccompanied by a parent to sell or solicit goods or services for any person other than an exempt organization or a business owned or operated by a parent or legal custodian.
    • Exempt organizations include charitable organizations; an organization regulated under Title 15, Election Code; or a club, organization, or other group engaged in a fund-raising activity for the club, organization, or group if the activity is sponsored by a public or private primary or secondary school.
  • Employ a child to sell or solicit goods or services for any person other than an exempt organization unless permission is granted by a parent or legal custodian on our Parental Consent form at least seven days before employment begins.
Parental Consent Form

Driving

Under state law, but not federal law, a person may employ a child to operate a motor vehicle for a commercial purpose if the child:

  • Performs the job under the direct supervision of the child's parent or legal custodian and for a business owned or operated by the child's parent or legal custodian.
  • Has a valid driver license.
  • Does not need a commercial license to perform the job.
  • Operates a vehicle with no more than two axles and not more than 15,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

Sexually Oriented Business

State law does not allow employment of an individual under the age of 21 in a sexually oriented business, requires a sexually oriented business to maintain certain photographic identification records, and provides for a criminal penalty.

Sales & Service of Alcohol

The provisions for selling or serving alcohol are not regulated by the Texas child labor laws. For those requirements, please see the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission

A child who is 16 or 17 has no restrictions on the number of hours or times of day they may work. There are hour restrictions only for children who are 14 and 15, with separate state and federal laws that cover their work hours. All businesses must follow state law but only those businesses covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are required to follow the federal law.

Texas State Law

State law states that 14- and 15- year olds:

  • Can work no more than 8 hours in one day.
  • Can work no more than 48 hours in one week.
  • Cannot go to work before 5 a.m.
  • Cannot work after 10 p.m. on a day that is followed by a school day, including summer school sessions when applicable.
  • Cannot work past midnight on a day that is not followed by a school day.

Federal Law

FLSA states that 14- and 15- year olds:

  • May not work during school hours.
  • Can work no more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week when school is not in session.
  • Can work no more than 3 hours in a day or 18 hours in a week when school is in session.
  • Can work only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year. However, between June 1 and Labor Day, they may work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Hardship Exemption

To request that TWC approve a hardship waiver of the hour restrictions for a child age 14 or 15 because it is necessary for the child to work to support themselves or their immediate family, follow the process described in Commission Rule Section §817.22.

A child who is 14 or 15 may be employed in the following occupations in retail, food service, and gasoline service establishments:

  • Office and clerical work (including operation of office machines).
  • Cashiering, selling, modeling, art work, work in advertising departments, window trimming and comparative shopping.
  • Price marking and tagging by hand or by machine; assembling orders, packing and shelving.
  • Bagging and carrying out customers' orders.
  • Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, and public transportation.
  • Cleanup work, including the use of vacuum cleaners and floor waxers, and maintenance of grounds, but not including the use of power-driven mowers or cutters.
  • Kitchen work and other work involved in preparing and serving food and beverages, including the operation of machines and devices used in the performance of such work such as, but not limited to, dishwashers, toasters, dumbwaiters, popcorn poppers, milk shake blenders and coffee grinders.
  • Work in connection with cars and trucks if confined to the following:
    • Dispensing gasoline and oil.
    • Courtesy service on premises of gasoline service station.
    • Car cleaning, washing, and polishing.
    • Other occupations permitted by this section.

But not including work:

  • Involving the use of pits, racks or lifting apparatus or involving the inflation of any tire mounted on a rim equipped with a removable retaining ring.
  • Cleaning vegetables and fruits, and wrapping, sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking goods when performed in areas physically separate from areas where meat is prepared for sale and outside freezers or meat coolers.

A child who is 14 or 15 may not be employed in:

  • Manufacturing, mining, or processing occupations, including occupations requiring the performance of any duties in work rooms or workplaces where goods are manufactured, mined, or otherwise processed.
  • Occupations which involve the operation or tending of hoisting apparatus or of any power-driven machinery other than office machines.
  • The operation of motor vehicles or service as helpers on such vehicles.
  • Public messenger service.
  • Occupations which the U.S. Secretary of Labor may declare to be hazardous for the employment of minors between 16 and 18 years old or detrimental to their health or well-being.
  • Occupations in connection with:
    • Transportation of persons or property by rail, highway, air, water, pipeline, or other means.
    • Warehousing and storage.
    • Communications and public utilities.
    • Construction (including demolition and repair).

Exception: Office work (including ticket office work) or sales work that does not involve the performance of any duties on trains, motor vehicles, aircraft, vessels, or other media of transportation or at the actual site of construction operations.

  • Work performed in or about boiler or engine rooms.
  • Work in connection with maintenance or repair of the establishment or equipment.
  • Outside window washing that involves working from windowsills, and all work requiring the use of ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes.
  • Cooking and baking.
    • Including the use of electric and gas grilles that entail cooking over an open flame.
    • Including the use of deep fryers that are not equipped with and utilize devices that automatically lower and raise the baskets into and out of oil or grease.
    • Including the cleaning of kitchen surfaces and non-power-driven kitchen equipment - including the filtering, transporting, and dispensing of oil and grease - but only when the temperature of the surfaces, equipment, oil and grease exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 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.
  • Work in freezers and meat coolers and all work in the preparation of meats for sale.
  • Loading or unloading goods to and from trucks, railroad cars, or conveyors.
  • All occupations in warehouses except office and clerical work.

A child who is 16 or 17 may not be employed in the occupations listed below, except for those occupations shown with an asterisk (*), which may have apprentice or student-learner exemptions for employment:

  • In or about plants or establishments manufacturing or storing explosives.
  • Involving the driving of motor vehicles and outside helpers (for example, someone riding on the outside of the vehicle to pick up trash bins):
    • On any public road or highway.
    • In or about any place where logging or sawmill operations are in progress.
    • In excavations.

Under certain conditions, driving a motor vehicle for a commercial purpose is not considered a hazardous occupation under state or federal law.

  • Connected with coal mining.
  • In connection with mining, other than coal.
  • Involving logging operations and sawmill operations, forest fire fighting and forest fire prevention operations and timber tract and forestry service occupations.
  • *Operating or assisting to operate power-driven woodworking machines.
  • Involving exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiations.
  • Operating or assisting to operate power-driven hoisting apparatus such as elevators, cranes, derricks, hoists, and high-lift trucks.
  • *Operating or assisting to operate power-driven metal forming, punching, and shearing machines.
  • *Operating or assisting to operate power-driven meat processing machines and in slaughtering, meat and poultry packing, processing, or rendering.
  • Operating or assisting to operate power-driven bakery machines.
  • *Involving the operating of power-driven paper-products machines, balers and compactors (Under certain conditions, loading a baler or box compactor is not considered a hazardous occupation under state or federal law).
  • Manufacturing brick, tile, and kindred products.
  • *Operating or assisting to operate power-driven circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears, abrasive cutting discs, reciprocating saws, chain saws, and woodchippers.
  • Wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations.
  • *Roofing operations and work on or about a roof.
  • *Connected with excavation operations.

Apprentice and Student Learner Exemptions

For the prohibited occupations listed above with an asterisk (*), a child who is 16 or 17 may be employed as an apprentice or student learner.

  • Apprentice:
    • Employed in a recognized apprentice trade.
    • Work is incidental to training.
    • Work is intermittent, short, under close journeyman supervision and registered or under a written agreement about work standards.
  • Student-learner:
    • Enrolled in an authorized cooperative vocational training program with a written agreement.
    • Work is incidental to training.
    • Work is intermittent, short, and under close supervision.
    • Safety instructions are given by school and employer.
    • A schedule of organized and progressive work is prepared.

Child Labor Appeals

Looking for information on how to appeal a child labor violation? Check out the Child Labor Appeal page.