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CRA FAQ

These are 'often asked' questions we receive from our members. We will periodically update and add new topics of interest, so check back often.

Colorado Restaurant Association
430 E 7th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
P: (303) 830-2972
TF: (800) 522-2972
F: (303) 830-2973
info@corestaurant.org

Yes, Colorado Law provides an exception to the minimum wage for "unemancipated minors". Colorado Minimum Wage Order Number 31 states that "unemancipated minors under 18 years of age may be paid 15% below the current minimum wage less any applicable lawful credits, for all hours worked." To qualify as an "unemancipated minor" the employee must:

  • Be under 18 years of age; AND
  • Not have primary responsibility for his or her own support; AND
  • Not be married and living away from parents or guardian; AND
  • Be a person whose well-being is not dependent on being gainfully employed.
Please note that while certain employees may qualify for this exception, their qualification status would change immediately upon the occurrence of any change in the employee's "unemancipated minor" status or upon turning 18 years old. CRA members are advised to establish a self-notification system that verifies the employee's unemancipated minor status periodically and changes it upon the employee's 18th birthday.

CRA was instrumental in passing a law to allow 18, 19 and 20 year olds to sell and serve alcohol. The previous age limit was 21 years old. However, there are several conditions that must be met for those under 21 years of age to serve and sell alcohol:

  • 18, 19 and 20 year olds may serve and sell alcohol only if they are supervised by another person who is on premise and is at least 21 years old.
  • 18, 19 and 20 year olds may not serve or sell alcohol in taverns that do not regularly serve meals or in liquor stores. In these cases, the server/seller must be at least 21 years of age.
Remember, even employees must be 21 years old to consume alcohol.

Important regulations must be followed by employers who hire students between the ages of 14 and 18 years old. The fines for violations of these regulations are quite high. Please review this chart to make sure you are in compliance with both state and federal laws regarding youth employment.

Federal Labor Laws for restaurants Fact Sheet.

Colorado Youth Labor Law Fact Sheet.

Comparison of State and Federal Youth Employment Regulations

State Federal

14 & 15 Year Olds

Time of Day
No work between 9:30 pm and 5:00 am unless the next day is not a school day

Maximum Hours per Day
6 hours after school on days followed by school days
8 hours in a 24 hour period*

Maximum Hours per Week
40 hours per week**

16 & 17 Year Olds

Time of Day
No restrictions**

Maximum Hours per Day
8 hours in a 24 hour period*

Maximum Days per Week
40 hours per week**


* Indicates most protective of employee ** Indicates state same as federal.

NOTE: When there is a conflict between state and federal laws, the law most protective of the employee applies. Businesses with aggregate annual sales of $500,000 or more, and any employee involved in interstate commerce regardless of the annual sales of the business, are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Taking out the trash is one of the duties commonly assigned to teen workers in retail and service establishments. While most of the duties associated with taking out the trash are safe for teens to perform, there are both safety hazards and potential violations of the federal youth employment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to consider if young workers take trash to a compactor or baler. Teen workers are permitted to take the trash to the site of the compactor or baler and set it on the ground, but workers under the age of 18 are generally prohibited from actually dumping trash into the compactor or baler. In addition, they may not operate the compactor or baler, nor may they unload the compactor or baler.

Performing any of these actions may violate Hazardous Occupations Order No. 12 of the federal youth employment provisions. This prohibition applies even if an employer does not own the compactor or baler but uses centralized equipment that is owned or provided by someone else. There is a limited exception in the law which allows 16 and 17 year olds to load, but not operate or unload certain compactors or balers.

For details and more information about FLSA youth employment provisions visit YouthRules! or call the Department of Labor’s toll free helpline at 1-866-4US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243).

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