If you were to ask a panel of teenagers what their favorite aspect of summer is, the most popular answer would most likely be that they finally have more time to go out and get a job … right?
This hypothesis is most assuredly wrong, but regardless of their feelings toward gainful employment, it’s statistically proven that there is an increase in teen employment from June to August—which is great for you, since business tends to pick up for many industries in the summer months.
While it’s great to have an influx of eager workers coming in when you need them the most, things get a bit more complex and strict when it comes to child labor laws, which are laid out in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
There is quite a bit of federal child labor legislation—as well as state law—aimed at protecting youth employees. The child labor provisions lay out different stipulations for minors under the age of 18, under the age of 16, and those 14 years of age.
The rules are rigid on the number of hours minor employees may work, what type of work they may perform, and other details such as proof of age and minimum wage rates. There are also separate rules for different industries such as teens working agricultural jobs, teens driving motor vehicles, and those working contract jobs for the federal government.
Don’t take these laws lightly—stiff penalties are attached to child labor law violations. In order to reduce some of the bulk that comes with the legislation, here are 10 tips to get you started on the road to staying compliant in terms of your young workers this summer (or any other time of the year).
Remember, this is not official legal advice. If you have questions or concerns about minors working for you, it’s best to consult an employment lawyer.
- Make sure you’re well informed on both federal and state child labor laws, and know that if the two laws differ, you must comply with the more restrictive one. You can view your state’s legislation by checking out our state-by-state employment law guides.
- It’s important that your supervisors who work closely with your minor employees are operating with safety as the highest priority. Have them develop a plan for and train minors on injury and illness prevention, as well as how to recognize safety hazards.
- Speaking of hazards, reduce them—especially for youth employees in roles that involve operating a vehicle or using tools that could potentially cause harm.
- It’s up to you to determine and verify how old the minor is and to lay out their duties and schedules with that age in mind. You must also keep a record of their Department of Labor-sanctioned age certificate and keep it for as long as they are working for you.
- Pay close attention to the time restrictions placed on minors. Employees 14 and 15 years of age can only work:
- During non-school hours
- A maximum of 3 hours in a school day
- A maximum of 18 hours in a school week
- A maximum of 8 hours in a non-school day
- A maximum of 40 hours in a non-school week
- Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when the time is extended to 9 p.m.
- While there are no time limits on minors 16 and 17 years of age, the duties they (as well as the younger minors) can perform are limited. A general rule of thumb is that minors can’t work in any type of hazardous industry, such as construction or warehousing jobs.
- Minors can be paid lower than the standard minimum wage rate for the first 90 days of employment. Employees under the age of 20 can be paid a special wage of $4.25 during the first 90 consecutive calendar days of work—which could potentially be the entire time they’re employed if they’re a summer worker.
Remember, child labor laws are not to be taken lightly, so before you hire any minors for the summer, you should make sure you’re prepared to follow the rules to a T.