Massachusetts Attorney General Cracks Down on Child Labor Law Violations

26 August 2019 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog

Businesses may employ minors in Massachusetts, but complying with Massachusetts child labor law involves more than just ensuring your workers are 14 or older. Last week, fast-casual Mexican food chain Qdoba Restaurant Corporation learned this lesson the hard way when Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy cited the company for $409,400 in penalties after finding more than 1,000 violations of child labor law.

According to a press release, the AG’s office began investigating the food chain when a minor employee complained that she worked too late in the evening at a Qdoba restaurant. Following an audit of the company’s records, the AG discovered that Qdoba had committed over a thousand violations of Massachusetts child labor law, primarily based on minors working too late in the evening and minors working too many hours per shift.

Massachusetts law on employing minors is more complicated than simple age thresholds. There are specific rules related to the hours minors may work that vary based on the age of the minor and the time of year. The following is a brief summary of the requirements of Massachusetts law:

When employing 14- and 15-year-olds, employers must observe the following limitations:

  • When school is in session:
    • Work only allowed between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
    • No more than 18 hours per week
    • No more than three hours per day on school days
    • No more than eight hours per day on weekends and holidays
    • No work during school hours


  • When school is not in session:
    • Work only allowed between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. during summer (July 1 to Labor Day)
    • No more than 40 hours per week
    • No more than eight hours per day
    • No more than six days per week

When employing 16- and 17-year-olds, employers must observe the following limitations (year-round):

  • No more than 48 hours per week
  • No more than nine hours per day
  • No more than six days per week
  • Work only allowed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on school nights (until 10:15 p.m. if the establishment stops serving customers at 10 p.m.)
  • Work only allowed between 6 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. non-school nights (until midnight for restaurants and race tracks)

Violations of these rules may result in a penalty of $250 for each violation for first-time offenders. As shown by the penalties assessed against Qdoba, the cost of violating these rules can quickly add up for a business that is not closely monitoring minor employees’ working hours. Employers who decide to utilize minors in their work force should take the time to understand these rules and ensure that they are complying with Massachusetts law. 

Finally, employers everywhere should take heed and review their state’s specific child labor law requirements. Massachusetts is not alone in imposing a series of work hour and time requirements with respect to the employment of minors. Be sure to know the specific restrictions in your state and ensure that supervisors are also properly aware of when and for how long minors may and may not work.

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