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Don't HR Alone #46 - Tennessee Employment of Minors

Tennessee Employment of Minors

Tennessee’s Child Labor Act is located at Tenn. Code Ann. 50-5-101 – 50-5-222.

Under Tennessee law, an individual younger than 18 years of age is a minor.

Prohibited Employment

Tennessee law prohibits employers from employing minors under 18 years of age in the following jobs:

  • Occupations in or about plants or establishments manufacturing or storing explosives or articles containing explosive components.

  • Occupations involving motor vehicle driving.

  • Coalmine occupations.

  • Logging occupations and the operations of any sawmill, lath mill, shingle mill, or cooperage-stock mill.

  • Occupations involving the operation of power-driven woodworking machines.

  • Occupations involving exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiation.

  • Operation of elevator and other power-driven hoisting apparatus.

  • Operation of power-driven metal-forming, punching, and shearing machines.

  • Occupations in mining elements other than coal.

  • Occupations involving slaughtering, meatpacking, processing, or rendering.

  • Operation of hazardous power-driven bakery or paper-product machines.

  • Manufacture of brick, tile, and kindred products.

  • Operation of circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears.

  • Wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations.

  • Roofing operations.

  • Excavation operations.

  • Occupation where monthly gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages exceed 25 percent of the total gross receipts of the place of employment, or where a minor takes orders for or serves intoxicating beverages regardless of the amount.

  • Occupations declared hazardous or injurious to the life, health, safety, and welfare of the minor by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

  • Posing or modeling while engaged in sexual conduct in a film, photograph, negative, slide, or motion picture.

  • Youth peddling or selling of merchandise by a minor under 16 years of age to customers at their residence or place of business or in public places.


Tennessee’s child labor law does not apply to the following minors, provided the employer has on file a written statement from a representative of the federal agency administering the program:

  • Enrollees in a public program conducted or funded by the federal government.

  • A 16- or 17-year old student learner enrolled in a course of study and training in a cooperative vocational training program under a recognized state or local educational authority or a similar program in a private school and who is employed according to a written agreement that is kept by the employer in the personnel records.

  • A 16- or 17-year old apprentice employed in a craft recognized as a trade, registered by the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training of the U.S. Department of Labor, and employed in accordance with the standards of that bureau.

  • A high school graduate or holder of the equivalent of a high school diploma, but only if a copy of the high school diploma or its equivalent is retained by the employer in the personnel records.

  • A 16- or 17-year old not enrolled in school or is who lawfully excused from compulsory attendance, provided that the employer has on file a written statement signed by the superintendent of schools stating that the minor is not enrolled or is lawfully excused from compulsory school attendance.

  • A minor who is or has been lawfully married, or is a parent, but only if a copy of either the minor’s marriage license or the birth certificate of the minor’s child is retained by the employer in the personnel records.

  • Agricultural employees.

  • A minor employed in housework in the minor’s home or employed by a parent or guardian in a nonhazardous occupation.

The Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development may consider and grant additional exemptions submitted in writing by the minor and the minor’s parent or guardian if it is found to be in the best interest of the minor and presents no danger to the life, health, safety, or schooling of that minor.

Permitted Employment

Tennessee’s child labor law does not apply to the following occupations:

  • Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, or public transportation.

  • Distribution or sale of newspapers.

  • Musician or entertainer.

Hours of Employment

Minors 14 or 15 years of age may not be employed as follows:

  • Between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., for more than three hours a day if the next day is a school day, or more than 18 hours a week while school is in session.

  • Between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., for more than eight hours a day, or more than 40 hours a week when school is not in session.

Minors 16 or 17 years of age enrolled in school may not be employed during school hours or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday evenings. Exception is given to minors who meet all of the following requirements:

  • Are enrolled in a church-related school or who are home-schooled.

  • Are employed with the consent of the parent or guardian.

  • Have presented to the employer a letter signed by the superintendent confirming their enrollment and authorization to work.

If the parents or guardians of a minor 16 or 17 years of age submit to the employer a signed and notarized statement of consent on a form provided by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development stating that the minor may be employed between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight, Sunday through Thursday evenings preceding a school day, not to exceed three times a week. A copy of the written consent must be mailed to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. The form is valid until the end of the school year or until the minor is terminated, and may be revoked at the request of the parent or guardian.

Breaks and Meal Periods

No minor may work more than six hours continuously without an interval of at least 30 minutes for a break or meal period. The break period may not be scheduled before or during the first hour of scheduled work.

Proof of Age

Before any minor may be employed or continue to be employed in connection with any gainful occupation, the employer must require proof of age of the minor employee with a copy of the minor’s birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, or state issued identification. If such evidence is not available, the parents or guardian shall appear with the minor before the judge or other officer of the juvenile court of the county in which the minor resides and shall make an oath as to the age of the minor.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Under Tennessee law, parents or guardians of minor employees must be notified of the results of any drug or alcohol testing (Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-9-109(e)). Additionally, minor employees must be notified that their parents/guardians will be notified of the test results (Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-9-109(f)).

Posting Requirements

Tennessee employers must post and maintain in a conspicuous place on the business premises a printed notice, furnished by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, stating the regulations governing the employment and hours of work of minors and employment prohibited to minors under Tennessee’s child labor law.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Tennessee employers employing minors must make, keep, and preserve a separate and independent file record for each minor employed, which must be kept at the location of the minor’s employment and must include:

  • An employment application.

  • A copy of the minor’s birth certificate or other evidence of the minor’s age.

  • An accurate time record showing the beginning and ending hours of each minor’s workday.

  • Any other records that may be required under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-5-107.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development may inspect all pertinent records of a minor’s employment at any reasonable time and as often as necessary to effectively enforce the provisions of Tennessee’s child labor law.