By Shannon Phillips, Employment and Training Specialist at Cortland Works Career Center
Your first job is a rite of passage that many teens look forward to. According to New York State Labor Law, youth as young as 11 can work legally in a very narrow range of jobs. When you turn 14, however, you become eligible for New York State Working Papers, which are not actually papers but a card that allows you to work legally. There are different color cards for different age groups. The only place you can get working papers is from your school’s guidance office or from the superintendent’s office in the district in which you live, even if you do not attend school there.
The first step is to get the application, fill it out, and have your legal guardian sign the application. You must return the application to the guidance office, along with proof of age such as a birth certificate, state issued photo ID, passport, or drivers permit or license. You will be required to have a physical before working papers are issued. Here are the different types of working papers and how they can allow to get a job when you become a certain age.
Blue Working Papers
Teens at ages 14 and 15 are eligible for work permitted by New York State Labor Law. At this age, you may work in all occupations not requiring the use of machinery, including lawn mowers, power tools, knives, or other potentially hazardous equipment. On school days, you can work 3 hours a day, between the hours of 7am and 7pm, though not during school hours. On weekends, you can work up to 8 hours a day between the same hours. You may not work more than 18 hours or 6 days a week when school is in session. As you can imagine, these restrictions make it difficult for employers to hire 14 and 15 year old workers but not impossible!
Green Working Papers
When you turn 16, you must visit your guidance counselor for new working papers because the New York State restrictions change. The working papers you get when you’re 16 will expire on your 18th birthday, when you no longer need them for legal employment. As a 16 or 17 year old, you can work 4 hours on days you have school and have to go to school the next day (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) and 8 hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can work up to 28 hours a week between the hours of 6am and 10pm. You are still prohibited from working around certain machines, doing construction work, helping on a motor vehicle, and working with factory machinery
Peach Working Papers
If you are 16 to 17 years old and are not in school or are leaving school for full time employment, you need a different set of working papers. This document allows you to work in a factory, but you still cannot work around certain machines, do construction work, help on a motor vehicle, or clean, oil, wipe, or adjust belts on machinery.
During vacation periods, including summer vacation, 14 and 15 year olds can work 8 hours a day between the hours 7:00am and 9:00pm, for a maximum of 40 hours per week. Students ages 16 and 17 can work eight hours a day for a maximum of 48 hours per week between the hours of 6:00am and midnight.
When you get a job, the employer will keep your working papers on file. When you leave the job, the working papers must be returned to you. The New York State Department of Labor has more information related to working papers and teen employment.