Retail: From stocking the shelves at the grocery store to folding clothes at Gap to staffing a register at Target, there are a number of opportunities at local and big-box retail stores for teens. Bonus: Some stores offer discounts for employees—teens just need to make sure they don’t spend their whole paycheck before it gets to their savings account!}
Obtaining Working Papers
Child Labor Laws may vary from state to state, but for the most part, they all limit the number of hours minors can work daily and weekly, and during what time of day they can work. Some laws even limit what types of jobs minors can hold. In order to uphold these laws, minors who wish to work must obtain working papers to document where they are working—and to make sure the minors and employers know the limits of the laws.
In New York, a minor first needs to get an application from her local public high school or school district office. (NYC residents need to visit their local public high school.) After the minor fills out the form, a parent or guardian must sign it. In addition, the minor needs proof of age (birth certificate) and a written statement from a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant saying he is physically fit to work. Once the minor has all the necessary documentation, she needs to bring the application back to the high school, and working papers can be issued on the spot, according to the New York State Department of Labor.
In New Jersey, minors can obtain a working-papers application from the NJ Department of Education, the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, or from the issuing officer of the local school district in which the minor resides. Once she has obtained the application, she must fill in their personal information, have her employer fill in the employment information and sign the form, have a doctor sign the form saying she is physically fit to work (the school district is responsible for performing the physical examination at no cost to the minor or her parents), document proof of age (birth certificate), and have a parent or guardian sign the form. Once the form is complete, the minor must bring it to the school district office, at which a designated official will review the form and issue working papers, according to the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
In Connecticut, minors must be at least 16 years old (15 for retail establishments during school vacation); have an employer’s written promise of employment, proof of age (birth certificate), and a social security card. In addition, the job must be permitted for the minor’s age according to Connecticut’s regulations, in an industry permitted for his age according to Connecticut’s regulations, and performed during the times and hours of work permitted by law, according to the Connecticut Department of Labor. Once a minor has this documentation, she must take it to the public high school in the town in which she resides to apply for working papers.
I credit my strong work ethic as an adult to my early entry into the workforce—yes, even though it was only a paper route. It taught me responsibility, reliability, time management, and following through with a commitment. It also taught me the value of a dollar at an early age. Yes, I may have wanted the expensive Levi’s, but I didn’t need them when the much-cheaper jeans from Old Navy worked just as well. When I did want something (like those aforementioned UGG boots), I saved my hard-earned money to pay for them myself—and I wore those ruby-colored slipper-like shoes until they had holes in the soles to get my money’s worth.
For some, their first job sparks an interest that leads to their future career. I delivered papers, which got me interested in journalism and led me to publishing; a friend mowed lawns and now owns a landscaping company. But for many, the first job was a way to earn money on their way to success. If you follow #FirstSevenJobs, you know that Tony Goldwyn (President Fitzgerald Grant on Scandal) was a farm hand; Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Broadway’s Hamilton) worked the slushee machine at his aunt’s store; Stephen Colbert worked in construction; and astronaut Buzz Aldrin was a dish washer. Even First Daughters aren’t off the hook: the Boston Herald reported that Sasha Obama worked at a restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard over the summer.
So… What’s your teen’s first job going to be?