If your 15-year-old is ready to start making money on her own, it's probably time to help her look for a job. While state child labor laws restrict the number of hours minors can work and the kinds of jobs they can have, there are not many jobs a 16-year-old qualifies for that a 14- or 15-year-old couldn't do.
State Child Labor Laws
Minors under the age of 18 are generally subject to state child labor laws. These restrict the number of hours the teenagers can work and limit jobs to those that are nonhazardous. For those under age 16, there are often additional restrictions. For example, minors who are 14 or 15 are often prevented from working before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. during the school year, as well as limited to the number of hours they can work each week. In Illinois, minors who are 14 and 15 need a work permit issued by their school. In Maine, work permits for 14- and 15-year-olds must be approved by the state's Department of Labor and require that the student be in good standing at school. In Tennessee, minors who are 14 and 15 require a parental consent form, which is kept on file by the employer.
From stocking and cleaning shelves, helping bring in deliveries and working at the cash register, minors who are 15 can often get jobs working in retail. Not all retailers are willing to hire minors at this age. Walmart, for example, only hires minors who are 16 or older.
Fifteen-year-olds may find jobs in restaurants and hotels. In a restaurant, this could include working in the kitchen assisting the cooks or washing dishes, busing tables or even serving – provided local liquor laws allow it. In Oregon, minors must be at least 16 to work in a kitchen that is not visible to the public. A 14- or 15-year-old can work at an Oregon snack bar, soda fountain, lunch counter, or in a cafeteria, provided the cooking area is publicly visible.
In hotels, this could include working in the kitchen or office. In some jurisdictions, including Maine, minors are not allowed to work in hotel rooms as cleaners, or even work in corridors adjoining rooms to bring deliveries or room service.
There are many farm jobs 15-year-olds can do, including picking fruits and vegetables, working on irrigation and other tasks. Working with farm equipment, like tractors or balers may not be permissible, depending on state law. If your state bars minors from working with heavy equipment, you may want to check with the department of labor to see what farm equipment is permissible. Some states do restrict the hours minors are able to work, even during summer vacation.
If a 15-year-old has an entrepreneurial spirit, there's plenty she can do by working for herself. This includes the old standards like babysitting, cutting grass, shoveling snow, tutoring, or running a paper route, as well as more modern jobs, like developing websites, fixing computers, managing social media channels for small businesses. You should check to see what rules apply if the work requires written contracts, as minors are not usually bound by them. If your teenager has a skill or talent people are willing to pay for, self-employment may be ideal. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a list of recommendations specifically for minors.