Child Labor Act

Tennessee’s Child Labor Law includes protections for youth (or “minors”) 14 to 17 years old who enter the workforce. The purpose of this law is to ensure that the work being performed is safe and does not jeopardize the health, well-being, or educational opportunities of these young people.

Tennessee’s Child Labor Act:

  • Prohibits the employment of minors in certain occupations and in working conditions that may be hazardous.
  • Restricts when a minor may work during a school day and the number of hours allowed to work.
  • Provides exceptions to these laws when the minor is enrolled in a Work Based Learning (WBL) Program.

Employers are generally subject to both state child labor laws and the federal child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 212(c), and the FLSA regulations at 29 CFR Part 570.

Employers must follow whichever provisions (state or federal) are “more restrictive” in order to be in compliance with the law.

Working Hours


While School is in Session While School is Not in Session

• No more than 3 hours per day

• No earlier than 7:00 am and no later than 7:00 pm

• No more than 18 hours per week

• No more than 8 hours per day

• No earlier than 6:00 am and no later than 9:00 pm

• No more than 40 hours per week


Minors 16 and 17 years of age may not be employed during those hours when the minor is required to attend class. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-5-105(b)(1).

Minors 16 and 17 years of age may not be employed between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, Sunday through Thursday, preceding a school day. Tenn. Code Ann. §50-5-105(b)(2).

However, if there is a valid Parental Consent Form signed and kept in the minor employee’s personnel file, then the minor (16 or 17 years of age) may work until midnight, but no more than three (3) nights per week Sunday through Thursday. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-5-105 (b)(2)(A). Forms remain valid until the end of the current school year or until termination of the minor's employment, or until the minor reaches the age of majority, whichever occurs first; and the original copy of the form shall be maintained for the period of its effectiveness by the employer at the location of the minor's employment. Tenn. Code. Ann. § 50-1-105 (b)(2)(C).

With respect to a student enrolled with a church-related school as defined in § 49-50-801, or who is home schooled in accordance with § 49-6-3050 and has the consent of the parent conducting the home school, subdivision (b)(1) shall not apply. However, to work during the hours identified in subdivision (b)(1), the student shall also present to the employer a letter signed by the director, as defined in § 50-5-102, confirming the student’s enrollment and the authorization to work. The director of the church-related school shall send a copy of the letter to the director of the LEA of the school district in which the child resides. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-5-105(c). 

Break or Meal Periods

A minor must be provided a thirty (30) minute unpaid break or meal period if scheduled to work six (6) hours consecutive hours. Such breaks shall not be scheduled during or before the first hour of the work day. Tenn. Code. Ann. § 50-5-115. The ample opportunity exemption (Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-2-103 (h)(1)(A)) and/or break waiver (Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-2-103 (h)(2)) does not apply to employees under 18 years of age.


Labor Standards Unit