As a juvenile, you do not have the same rights or the same responsibilities as an adult.
In Maine, you become a legal adult at age 18. (There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, you cannot legally consume alcohol in Maine until you are 21.) This law means that until you reach the age of 18, you are treated differently in many areas, such as in employment and under the criminal law.
You are permitted to work in Maine under certain circumstances. The circumstances vary according to age. These restrictions protect your health and safety. They also make sure that work does not interfere with your education.
Work permits. If you are under 16, you must obtain a permit in order to work. You are eligible for a work permit if you are enrolled in school, not habitually truant or under suspension, and are passing a majority of your classes. These rules also apply to homeschoolers. You also have to have a legal status in the U.S. that allows you to work, such as citizenship, permanent residency or a work permit from the Immigration Service. (See Education for more information on who is able to work in the U.S.) In addition, you must have your parent's permission. Ask for a work permit form at your school or town office.
You must have a job offer to get a permit to work. Take proof of your age and proof of your parents' permission to the Superintendent's Office of your school district. A parent can come with you to sign the permit. The Superintendent's office will complete the form and mail it to the Department of Labor. The Department of Labor will review the form and validate the permit if the job meets all the other requirements (see below). You cannot work until the Department approves the permit. You must get a new permit for every new job you take until you are 16. You can only have one permitted job during the school year, and no more than two work permits for summer jobs. These rules include a job under the supervision of your parents.
Work restrictions. Restrictions prohibit employment in certain types of businesses in order to protect you from dangerous work. There are many prohibited occupations. The list below is not comprehensive. Check with the Maine Department of Labor if you are unsure about the job you wish to take.
In general, if you are under 16, you cannot work in:
- manufacturing, mining, warehousing, construction, welding, or food processing (unless the work is clerical and segregated from the industrial work)
- jobs involving power-driven machinery, toxic chemicals or paints, ladders, scaffolds, meat coolers or freezers, boilers or engine rooms, laundering or outside window-washing (above 10 feet off the ground), or meat coolers or freezers
- jobs involving motor vehicle driving, amusement rides
- any job expressly prohibited for 16- and 17-year olds
If you are 16 or 17, you may not be employed in:
- manufacturing brick, tile or explosives, mining, roofing, wrecking and demolition
- jobs involving the use of power-driving woodworking, hoisting, metal work, paper product machines, or saws
- direct contact with pesticides
- slaughtering or meat packing (including slicers, grinders and choppers)
- motor vehicle driving
- places involving nude entertainment
- working alone in a cash-based business
- placement at the scene of an emergency
- working at heights or in confined spaces
Special rules apply if you are an apprentice, student learner, junior firefighter, child actor or involved in agricultural work. Check with the Department of Labor.
Hours and times. Maine law limits the number of hours you can work and the days you can work. If you are under 16, the permitted work hours are:
- between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on school days, including Friday
- between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. during summer vacations
- not during school hours
If you are under 16, the maximum hours are:
- 3 hours a day on school days, including Fridays
- 18 hours in any week when school is in session
- 40 hours in a week with no school
- 8 hours on days without school (weekends, holidays, storm days, vacation)
- no more than six days in a row
If you are 16 or 17 and enrolled in school, the permitted work hours are:
- not before 7 a.m. on a school day
- not before 5 a.m. on a non-school day
- not after 10:15 p.m. the night before a school day
- not after midnight if there is no school the next day
- not during school hours if you are under 17
If you are 16 or 17 and enrolled in school, the maximum work hours are:
- 6 hours a day on a school day; 8 hours a day on the last school day of the week
- 24 hours per week in any week with 3 or more school days
- 50 hours in a week with less than 3 scheduled school days, or during the first or last week of the school year
- 10 hours a day on non-school days (weekends, holidays, vacations)
- no more than six days in a row
There are exceptions for students in approved alternative or vocational programs, agricultural workers, children's camp workers, child actors, legally emancipated minors and minors employed in fishing occupations or excursion boats. Check with the Maine Department of Labor.
This section is about kids and teens who break the law or get into trouble with the police. KIDS LEGAL, a project of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, has good general information on how Maine’s Juvenile Justice system works. Go here
Immigration issues and juvenile justice issues. If you are not a citizen of the United States, breaking criminal laws can lead to immigration problems. (See Criminal Law about the impact of criminal issues for immigrants who are treated as adults.) In general, juvenile dispositions will not put you at risk of deportation. But they can cause problems with becoming a U.S. permanent resident or citizen. These are complicated cases and you, or an adult responsible for your care, should speak with an experienced immigration advocate as soon as possible. See Resources.
Juvenile Victims of Abuse and Neglect
Immigrant youth who are victims of crimes or of abuse, neglect or abandonment. If you are not a citizen of the United States and you do not have legal immigration status in the U.S., and you
- have been a victim of a crime, including sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, forcible restraint, forced prostitution, and other crimes, or
- have been a victim of child abuse, or neglect or abandonment by the adults responsible for caring for you, or
- have had any contact with Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) child protective staff
you may be able to get legal immigration status as a result of what has happened to you. These are complicated cases, and you, or an adult responsible for your care, should speak with an experienced immigration advocate as soon as possible if you are in this situation. (See Resources.)
If you are at least 16 years old and want to live on your own, emancipation may be an option for you. Emancipated minors are no longer under the control of their parents. The District Court will determine if you should be emancipated. (Read more about District Court under Government.)
If you are between 16 and 18, refuse to live with your parents, and want to be emancipated, you can ask the District Court to appoint a free lawyer for you. The lawyer will file a petition, or request, for emancipation. After receiving the petition, the judge may make you go to mediation with your parents. A court-appointed mediator will see if you can reach an agreement with your parents before going to court. This agreement may give suggestions, such as living with a relative for the rest of the year and then returning home. Or, your parents could agree to your emancipation. If you agree with the terms, a formal agreement will be made. However, a judge will have to approve the agreement before it becomes final.
At the hearing with the judge, you will be expected to have a plan for living on your own. The judge will be looking for proof of a residence, health care, educational options or a job. You need to bring documentation to show that you can become self-supporting and that your plan will work.
Some of the things the judge will be looking for are:
- a note from a landlord or the person you are living with.
- information about your job. A pay stub will help prove that you are working.
- information about any government benefits you receive (TANF, food stamps, financial aid)
- a budget that includes your basic needs.
- information about any agencies that will be helping you.
If your petition is denied, the judge may recommend that DHS provide services and counseling to you and your family. You may appeal the judge's decision. You will only have 5 business days appeal. You should talk to your lawyer immediately.
The Maine Department of Labor posts comprehensive material on employment for minors.
Immigration Legal Aid in Maine
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
309 Cumberland Avenue, Suite 201
Portland, Maine 04101
207-780-1593 or 1-800-497-8505
Services are free or low-fee depending on income
KIDS Legal Aid of Maine www.kidslegalaid.org
88 Federal Street
P.O. Box 547
Portland ME 04112
TTY (207) 828-2308
Or call toll free: (886) 624-7787
Private Immigration Lawyers: See the "Immigration Law" listing under "Lawyers" in the Yellow Pages of the phone book
June 2009; partially updated September 2011