Teens and Employment – Virginia Rules (2023)

Learn what laws and regulations govern work by those under 18, what types of work are allowed, and how to obtain a work permit.

Does Virginia have laws about child labor?

Yes. Child labor laws are contained in the Code of Virginia §§ 40.1-78 to 40.1-116.

In general, child labor laws are intended to protect the health and safety of children, to prevent exploitation, and to ensure that work does not interfere with their educational opportunities.

There are also state regulations that define hazardous occupations and govern the employment of minors in various types of occupations. The regulations are contained in Title 16 of the Virginia Administrative Code. (https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title16/)

How does someone get an employment certificate?

In general, 14- and 15-year-olds:

  • must have an employment certificate, (Code of Virginia § 40.1-84)

  • have limits on hours they can work, and

  • cannot work in certain jobs considered to be unhealthy, unwholesome, or dangerous.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has an automated, employment certificate process. Children and their parents no longer need to apply for an employment certificate at their school, but can apply online at https://www.doli.virginia.gov/labor-law/employment-certificate-application-instructions/.

There are three key documents required for an employment certificate. They are:

Minors under the age of 16 must obtain an employment certificate before their first day of employment.

What are age certificates?

Age certificates serve as proof of age. They are typically issued to workers age 16 and older. Proof of age is often requested by an employer as part of the hiring process when the job requires that the worker be 16 or older. (Code of Virginia § 40.1-104).

What is the difference between a vacation or part-time certificate and a work-training certificate?

Virginia law defines two types of employment certificates: (Code of Virginia § 40.1-85)

A vacation or part-time certificate permits the employment of a minor between 14 and 16 years of age only during school vacation periods and on days when school is not in session, or outside school hours on school days. (Code of Virginia § 40.1-87).

A work-training certificate permits the employment of a minor between 14 and 16 years of age during school hours when enrolled in a regular school work-training program. To qualify as a work-training program, there must be a written agreement between the employer and the school that meets certain requirements. (Code of Virginia § 40.1-88).

Are there jobs that don’t require an employment certificate?

Minors do not need employment certificates for the following jobs (Code of Virginia § 40.1-84):

  • working for their parents or in the home of others;
  • working on a farm, garden, or orchard;
  • performing or acting (note: the employer must obtain theatrical permits from the Department of Labor and Industry; (Code of Virginia § 40.1-102);
  • working as a page/clerk for the VA General Assembly; or
  • doing volunteer work. (Code of Virginia § 401.1-79.01)

How old do you have to be to get a job?

This depends on the type of job you want.

Anyone, at any age, is allowed to (Code of Virginia§ 40.1-79.01):

  • work at home for their parents doing domestic jobs such as cleaning house or taking out the trash;
  • work on their parents’ farm, garden, or orchard doing such things as planting and feeding animals;
  • work in a business owned by their parents except manufacturing, mining, or other dangerous jobs;
  • work at another person’s house doing housecleaning or babysitting, with their parents’ permission; and
  • participate with a volunteer rescue squad.

If you are 12 or older, you are allowed, with your parents’ permission, to:

  • work on any farm, garden, or orchard belonging to someone else;
  • deliver newspapers;
  • referee at a sporting event for a charitable or government organization; and
  • if between 12 and 18, work as a page or clerk for the Virginia General Assembly.

If you are 14 or 15 and have an employment certificate, you are allowed to work:

  • in any office job;
  • in hospitals and nursing homes doing kitchen duties and room and hallway cleaning;
  • as a cashier for a dry cleaners as long as no processing is done on the premises;
  • in food service cleaning dishes, waiting on tables (but not serving alcoholic beverages), and as a cashier or kitchen helper (with restrictions);
  • at bowling alleys;
  • at a swimming pool as gatekeeper or in concessions; and
  • on the beach handling beach equipment.

Minors 16 and 17 of age are not required to obtain an employment certificate and are permitted to hold many other types of jobs. They are, however, barred from working in certain particularly hazardous jobs.

In what places or occupations are those under 16 not permitted to work?

Minors under 16 are prohibited from several occupations, which are considered unhealthy, unwholesome or dangerous. Some examples include (Code of Virginia § 40.1-100(B)):

  • manufacturing or mechanical establishments;
  • construction trades;
  • scaffolding;
  • commercial canneries;
  • operation of any passenger or freight vehicle;
  • dance studio;
  • laboratory helper, therapist, orderly, or nurse’s aide in an establishment providing resident patient care;
  • veterinarian business, while treating farm animals or horses;
  • warehouses;
  • processing in dry cleaners or laundries;
  • undertaking establishment or funeral home;
  • curb service restaurant;
  • hotel and motel room service;
  • ushers in theaters;
  • brick, coal, or lumber yard;
  • outdoor theater;
  • cabaret, carnival, fair, floor show, pool hall, club, or roadhouse; or
  • lifeguard at a beach (note: you can be a lifeguard at a swimming pool at 15, but not at a beach, where conditions can be more hazardous).

What types of work is someone under 18 not allowed to do?

Virginia Child Labor Laws (Code of Virginia Title 40.1) prohibit the employment of persons under 18 in any occupation determined to be hazardous or detrimental to an employee’s health.

Those under 18 years of age may not work in the following places or occupations, including (Code of Virginia § 40.1-100):

  • in any occupation that exposes them to a recognized hazard capable of causing serious physical harm or death, including mining, logging, manufacturing, or storage of explosives (see Title 16 of the Virginia Administrative Code for a full list);
  • manufacturing paints, colors, or white lead;
  • establishments where consumption of alcoholic beverages is the main business with exceptions; or
  • as a driver or helper on a truck or commercial vehicle with more than two axles.

At what age can someone be a lifeguard?

At 15 you can be a lifeguard at a pool. You must be 16 or older to be a lifeguard at a beach. (Code of Virginia § 40.1-100 (B)(2)). An employment certificate is required and you must also meet Red Cross or similar certification requirements.

What hours are minors allowed to work?

For those age 14 or 15, work hours depend on school schedule, day of the week, and occupation.

School YearSummer
(defined as June 1 to Labor Day)
Between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM
  • Not during school time
  • With a paper route can start delivering at 4 AM
Between the hours of 7 AM and 9 PM
  • With a paper route can start delivering at 4 AM
3 hours per day on a school day8 hours per day on a non-school day
18 hours a week for a school week40 hours a week in a non-school week
8 hours per day on a non-school day
40 hours a week in a non-school week

(Rules on newspaper carriers inCode of Virginia§ 40.1-109)

The person may not work during school hours unless enrolled in a school work-training program with a work training certificate. In addition, the person must be given a 30-minute rest or meal period after five consecutive hours of work. (Code of Virginia §§ 40.1-78 and 40.1-80.1)

Teenagers 16 and 17 years of age have no restrictions on the number of hours worked. They must, however, comply with the compulsory school attendance law and curfew ordinances that may apply and these will influence times they can lawfully work. (Code of Virginia §§ 40.1-115 and 40.1-116).

Exceptions to the limitation on hours for any teens include work in the following situations (Code of Virginia § 40.1-79.01):

  • non-manufacturing parent-owned businesses;
  • parent-owned farms, orchards, or gardens;
  • around parents’ or someone else’s home;
  • page/clerk for the Virginia General Assembly;
  • performing or acting; and
  • activities for a volunteer rescue squad.

What rules are there about working in a store or restaurant where alcohol is served?

In a restaurant where mixed beverages are served, no employee working in the capacity of a server can be under the age of 18. No bartender can be under the age of 21. Staff such as busboys, cooks, and kitchen help can be of any age. (3 VAC 5-50-50).

If an establishment serves only beer an individual who is 18 years or older may act in the capacity of a bartender. (3 VAC 5-50-50)

In a store that sells alcohol to be consumed off premises (such as a grocery or convenience store), someone under 18 with a proper employment certificate can work as a clerk or cashier selling the product as long as this is not their primary function. (Code of Virginia § 40.1-100(A)(5) and 3 VAC 5-50-50)).

Are there any restrictions on driving by employees under 18 years of age?

Yes. If you’re under 18 you generally cannot be employed as a driver. (Code of Virginia § 40.1- 100 (A)(7)).

However, those who are at least 17 years of age may drive automobiles or trucks on public roadways if:

  • the automobile does not exceed 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight;
  • the vehicle is equipped with seat belts;
  • the employer requires the employee to use the seat belts; and
  • the driving is done during daylight hours.

Also, the young employee must have successfully completed a state-approved driver education course and the driving cannot involve:

  • the towing of vehicles;
  • route deliveries or route sales;
  • the transportation for hire of property, goods or passengers;
  • urgent, time-sensitive deliveries such as food; or
  • the transporting at any time of more than three passengers, including the employees of the employer.

What are the requirements for minors under the age of 18 to participate in volunteer fire fighting?

Under Code of Virginia § 40.1-79.1, minors who are at least 16 may participate fully in all activities of a volunteer fire company, if they have obtained Level One firefighter certification and have their parents’ or guardian’s permission, and if there is a town, city, or county ordinance in place permitting persons 16 years of age and older to participate under these circumstances.

For more information about the Level One firefighter certification visit the Virginia Department of Fire Programs website at https://www.vafire.com .

When employing minors, what responsibilities do employers have?

Code of Virginia § 40.1-103(A) makes it illegal for an employer to endanger the life or health of a child. This means that an employer cannot put you in a situation that can endanger your life, health, or morals, or cause you to be overworked, tortured, tormented, mutilated, beaten, or cruelly treated.

A penalty of up to $10,000 may be assessed for each violation that results in the serious injury or death of a minor and a penalty of up to $1,000 may be assessed for other violations of the child labor laws. (Code of Virginia §§ 40.1-100.1 and 40.1-113)

In addition to these civil penalties, criminal penalties are prescribed under a law on cruelty and injuries to children. Code of Virginia § 40.1-103 makes it “unlawful for any person employing or having the custody of any child willfully or negligently to cause or permit the life of such child to be endangered or the health of such child to be injured, or willfully or negligently to cause or permit such child to be placed in a situation that its life, health, or morals may be endangered, or cause or permit such child to be overworked, tortured, tormented, mutilated, beaten, or cruelly treated. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.” This provision is enforced by the appropriate local Commonwealth’s Attorney.

It is important to note that even when an employer is in compliance with Virginia law, the employer may nevertheless be in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers who are covered by federal law must insure that they are in compliance with federal as well as Virginia law.

Information about federal laws and rules on is available from the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/youthrules .


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