Know the Law: Summer Employment of High School Students

Published in the Union Leader
By Amy Goodridge

Q.  I own a small retail business and I would like to hire a few high school students to keep up with my elevated work load during the summer months.  Can I follow my normal hiring practices in regards to these under age workers, or are there special requirements I must comply with?

A.  The state of New Hampshire has specific youth employment laws for all workers under the age of eighteen years of age.  It is the policy of the state to foster the employment of young people while, at the same time, providing necessary safeguards to protect young workers.  Federal and state child labor laws generally prohibit workers under the age of eighteen from working excessive hours, operating unsafe machinery, or working in dangerous occupations.

Pursuant to New Hampshire law, no child under the age of sixteen shall be employed or permitted to work without a New Hampshire Youth Employment Certificate, unless that child meets certain specific exceptions such as working for his or her parents or grandparents, or working as a farm laborer.  Children aged sixteen or seventeen, with the exception of those who have graduated from high school or obtained a general equivalency diploma, must provide a signed written document from their parent or legal guardian permitting the minor’s employment, which must be kept on file by the employer.  This written permission by the parent or guardian must be on file at the employer’s work place at the time the minor’s employment begins.  Additionally, proof of age must be verified by a birth certificate, passport, or similar document and the employer must keep a record of the date of birth on file for all minors under the age of nineteen.

Assuming you plan  to hire high school students over the age of sixteen during the summer months, you should be aware that no minor aged sixteen or seventeen years of age who is  enrolled in school may  work for more than six consecutive days or forty-eight hours in any one week during school vacations, including summer vacation.  New Hampshire’s youth employment laws define  “summer vacation” as June 1 through Labor Day.

Also, if you decide to hire several high school students for the busy summer months, you must  post a printed notice stating the hours of work, the time allowed for dinner or other meals, and the maximum number of hours any youth is permitted to work in any one day.  This notice must be posted in a conspicuous place  wherever minors are employed.

Youth employment laws are the subject of intensive enforcement efforts by government investigative agencies and significant civil penalties, so it is very important to ensure that your business is compliant.  The rules and regulations in this area of the law are fact specific and generally depend on the nature of the job and the amount of hours a minor will be working.  Employers should evaluate their youth employment situations on a case-by-case basis, maintain proper documents, and seek out legal counsel if necessary.

Amy Goodridge can be reached at

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.
We invite your questions of business law.  Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to:  Know the Law, The McLane Law Firm, P.O. Box 888, Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.