East Texas teenagers will soon learn a hard truth and a fact of life - they'll have to earn money to make a living and to be able to stand on their own one day. It's something we would rather not do, but we must get a job to earn a living and be a part of a productive society.

We might not have liked our first job, but we remember it well. It was most likely an entry-level position earning minimum wage as we learned how to navigate working with and getting along with others.

When summer comes around many teenagers will be out looking for that first job so they can earn some money to purchase a vehicle or buy gas to run around and hang with their friends. Some kids are eager to work, so how old must you be to legally work in Kilgore, Texas or Longview, Texas?

I can remember my first job when I was 13. I was rolling and throwing newspapers from my bike living in Grand Prairie, Texas. I held that job for a couple of years until I got my first 'real job' at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas right after I turned 16. I held that job for 10 years and had the best time and learned a lot while I was there before moving on to radio.

The youngest a person can be to legally work in Texas is 14

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 14- and 15-year-olds can be hired by businesses to perform certain non-hazardous duties. The state has certain guidelines that employers must follow if they hire from this age group. Texas state law states that 14- and 15-year-olds:

  • Can work no more than 8 hours in one day.
  • Can work no more than 48 hours in one week.
  • Cannot go to work before 5 a.m.
  • Cannot work after 10 p.m. on a day that is followed by a school day, including summer school sessions when applicable.
  • Cannot work past midnight on a day that is not followed by a school day.

There are federal laws for this age group:

  • May not work during school hours.
  • Can work no more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week when school is not in session.
  • Can work no more than 3 hours in a day or 18 hours in a week when school is in session.
  • Can work only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year. However, between June 1 and Labor Day, they may work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

When I worked at Six Flags, I worked with 15-year olds and we could tell they were 15 because they wore a yellow name tag, we called them 'banana tags', their tags eventually changed and their age was indicated by an asterisk (*) behind their name, so then we called them 'star babies'. As a manager later in my career with the park if it was past a certain time of day and I saw a tag with that distinction and they were working, I knew someone had to be sent home soon.

There are certain jobs that this age group can and cannot work in. However, if a business is owned or operated by a parent or legal custodian, a child of any age can work any amount of hours as long as it's non-hazardous and under the direct supervision of the parent/guardian.

The Texas Workforce Commission has a robust webpage devoted to permissions and restrictions, not only to 14- and 15-year-olds but what 16- and 17-year-olds can and can't do as well. If a business is found in violation of child labor laws the owner could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $10,000 per violation.

Teens, once you secure that first job, whether it's working at a fast food joint, a retail store, a landscaping business, or whatever, you'll remember it for life. For more complete details on Texas child labor laws check out the Texas Workforce Commission site.

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