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Know your rights and responsibilities as a youth worker

Working a job has many benefits, but can come with risks, too. The youth employment laws are in place to protect you from potential dangers or abuses. Be sure to know your rights!

This page is a collaboration of the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. If you believe your employer has failed to follow any of the laws described below, you may file a workplace complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

Still have questions? Contact:
Youth Engagement and Employment
1483 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02120

Safety

You have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Your employer must provide health and safety training, including information on harmful chemicals you might use. It’s illegal for an employer to fire you for speaking up if you are worried about health or safety conditions at work or for filing a health and safety complaint.

You have the right to:
  • Refuse to perform a task if it threatens your immediate safety
  • File a health and safety complaint with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Labor Standards (DLS)
  • Work without racial or sexual harassment
  • Join or organize a union
  • Go to training programs, or ask for training if there are no programs
  • Use correct safety techniques when working
  • Read chemical labels and follow instructions
  • Ask questions if you are not sure about something
  • Ask a responsible adult, like a co-worker, parent, guardian, or teacher, if you need help talking to your boss
  • Keep your work area clean and neat
  • Keep calm around angry customers. Call your supervisor if you feel threatened.
If you get injured at work:
  • Tell your supervisor right away, even if you think the injury is not serious.
  • Get medical treatment, even if you have to leave work.
  • Tell your parent or guardian about your injury.

Pay

When it comes to pay, employers must:

  • pay you at least the Massachusetts minimum wage for all hours you work
  • pay you 1.5 times your regular pay for every hour over 40 that you work in a week
  • let you keep all your tips or your share of a valid tip pool
  • pay for your medical care (and maybe lost wages) if you get hurt or sick because of your job, and
  • let you earn and use up to 40 hours of sick leave a year.

 Learn about breaks and time off

Work hours

The number of hours you are able to work depends on your age. Legal work hours are described below. 

14- and 15-year-olds
Time of the Year Time Range Maximum Hours

School Year

7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

(not during school hours)

18 hours/week

3 hours/school day

8 hours/day on weekends & holidays

6 days/week

Summer

(July 1 – Labor Day)

7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

40 hours/week

8 hours/day

6 days/week

16- and 17-year-olds
Time of the Year Time Range Maximum Hours

School Nights

6 a.m. – 10 p.m.

(or until 10:15 p.m. if the business stops serving customers at 10 p.m.)

48 hours/week

9 hours/day

6 days/week

Non-School Nights

6 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.

(or until midnight if a restaurant or racetrack)

48 hours/week

9 hours/day

6 days/week 

Note: After 8 p.m. there must be an adult at the workplace to supervise 14- to 17-year-olds. The exception is if a teen at a kiosk, cart, or stand in the common area of an enclosed shopping mall if the mall has security. In this case, the teen may work alone after 8 p.m.

Job-related illness or injury

Your employer cannot fire you for getting hurt at work or for missing work because of a job-related injury or illness. Employees who get hurt on the job have a right to workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ compensation benefits include:
  • medical treatment for your work-related injury or illness paid for by your employer
  • some of your lost wages if you are unable to work for five or more calendar days because of the injury or illness (these five days do not have to be in a row)
  • double compensation if child labor laws were not followed when you got injured, and
  • other benefits if you become permanently disabled.
You are covered regardless of:
  • how old you are
  • how many hours a week you work
  • how you are paid
  • your immigration status, and
  • who or what caused your work-related injury or illness.

Workers compensation information

Equal treatment

In most cases, employers must not pay you less for doing the same or comparable work as another employee of a different gender. They must also not discriminate in hiring, pay, or other benefits based on your:

  • age, race, or color
  • religion, national origin, or ancestry
  • sex (including pregnancy)
  • sexual orientation or gender identity or expression
  • genetic information or disability, or
  • military service.
Facing discrimination?

If you believe you have been unlawfully discriminated against by your employer, you may file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office serves all workers, regardless of immigration status. Know your rights as an immigrant worker.

Illegal jobs for certain ages

If you are under 16 you must not:
  • cook (except on electric or gas grills that do not have open flames), operate fryolators, rotisseries, NIECO broilers, or pressure cookers
  • operate, clean, or repair power-driven machinery
  • work in freezers or meat coolers
  • perform any baking activities
  • Clean kitchen surfaces that are hotter than 100˚F
  • work in or near factories, construction sites, manufacturing plants, mechanized workplaces, garages, tunnels
  • filter, transport, or dispose of cooking oil or grease hotter than 100˚F
  • load or unload trucks
  • work on or use ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes
  • ride in or on a motor vehicle (except in passenger seat if wearing a seatbelt), or
  • work in any occupation or task prohibited for someone under age 18.
If you are under 18 you must not:
  • drive a motor vehicle or forklift on the job
  • work at a job that requires having or using a firearm
  • use, clean or repair certain kinds of power-driven machines, including meat slicers, grinders, choppers and processors
  • handle, serve, or sell alcoholic beverages
  • use, service, drive, or work from hoisting machines
  • operate or load power-driven balers, compactors, or paper-processing machines
  • work 30 or more feet off the ground
  • work in roofing or on or about a roof (for example, installing solar panels)
  • work in excavation, wrecking, or demolition, or
  • use circular, chain, or band saws, guillotine shears, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs.

Complete list of prohibited jobs

Criminal history

If you are applying for a job in Massachusetts, most employers are not allowed to ask you about your criminal history on the first application. They may ask you some questions later. Learn more about your rights.

Want to seal or expunge your criminal record?

Project Opportunity can connect you with a volunteer lawyer who will review your record with you for free. Just fill out this form and a lawyer will get in touch with you.

Work permits

If you are under 18 years old, you must get a work permit before you can start a new job. If you are working a job through SuccessLink and are under 18, the work permit was part of your paperwork.

Follow these steps to get a work permit:
  1. Get a job offer from an employer.
  2. Fill out a work permit application. To get an application, go to your school district’s Superintendent of Schools’ Office (where you live or go to school), or download an application.
  3. If you need help with the application, ask a guidance counselor or job placement
  4. coordinator at your high school.
  5. Ask your employer to fill out the Promise of Employment section.
  6. If you are 14 or 15, a doctor must fill out and sign the Physician’s Certificate of Health
  7. section. Your doctor can do this part up to 12 months before you file your application.
  8. Sign. You and your parent, guardian or custodian MUST sign your completed
  9. application.
  10. Take your completed application to the Superintendent of Schools (or the person in
  11. charge of permits) at the school district where you live or go to school. Also take proof
  12. of your age, like a birth certificate, passport, or immigration record. If they approve
  13. your application, they will tell you when to pick up your work permit.
  14. Give your work permit to your employer. Your employer must keep it at the workplace
  15. at all times until you leave your job.