Minor Employment Laws: The Dos and Don’ts of Employing Minors

High school students can be a great source for hourly employees, but keep in mind there are an extra set of both federal and local labor laws to follow when it comes to the hiring and employment of minors. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), administrated by the Department of Labor, sets hour restrictions for 14 & 15-year-olds, with 14 being the minimum minor age for children and teens that are looking to work. The employer should seek proof of age when hiring a minor.

This can include a driver’s license or any other document stating their date of birth, such as a birth certificate. Some regulations require that minors have specific work experience, possession of different employment certificates, or completion of similar training programs.

Although the FLSA has not set restrictions for 16 & 17-year-olds, over half of the states have the number of hours, meal breaks, type of work, minimum wage, hazardous occupations, or rest period state laws specific to minors, while some require work permits. There are some exemptions to this law, including years of age for some jobs, jobs with minor’s parents, minor employees that do agricultural work, so be sure to check your local child labor laws. Read more about FLSA work restrictions for minors here.

FLSA Work Hour Restrictions for Minor Employment

What you can’t do Restrictions by age What you can do
Under FLSA, no additional restrictions 16 & 17-year-olds Unlimited
No more than 3 hours of work outside school hours, including Fridays; Not more than 8 hours on a non-school day; No more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session; Not more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session;  Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. – except between June 1 and Labor day when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m. 14 & 15-year-olds (14 being the minimum age) Short Hours during the school day.  Up to 8 hours on weekends or after the school year has ended. 

The FLSA also regulates which types of occupations minors can have.  Minors are prohibited from working in dangerous fields like in a plant, with heavy machinery, driving motor vehicles, or fire fighting.  Most administrative jobs pass the test, but for the restaurant industry, it may be more difficult to employ a minor in a back-of-the-house position.

Below, find a summary of the types of restaurant positions the FLSA regulates for minors. Check your local laws, as many states have their own restrictions that apply to minors in addition to the FLSA.

Hiring Minors to Work in a Restaurant

What minors can’t do Restrictions by equipment and occupation What minors can do
Dangerous occupations like working in a plant, motor vehicle operations, delivery driver, or firefighter Occupations 16 & 17-year-olds Food server, dishwasher, cashier, administrative work.  In Food prep minors may clean vegetables and fruits, wrap, seal. Label, weigh, price, and stock items including fruits vegetables.  
Prohibited equipment includes meat slicers, meat saw, patty forming machines, meat grinder, meat choppers, commercial mixers, and bakery machines.   Equipment 16 & 17-year-olds May use a dishwasher, vacuum, floor waxing machine, coffee machines, computer, printer, cash register.  
In addition to those listed above, minors may not perform any baking activities. They may not work in freezers or meat coolers, but they may occasionally enter a freezer. Occupations 14 & 15-year-olds Cashiering, table service, and “busing,” and clean up work like vacuuming or waxing floors.  They may perform kitchen work and food prep work.
They may not operate certain broilers, rotisseries, pressure cookers, fryolators, high-speed ovens, or rapid toasters. Equipment 14 & 15-year-olds Dish-washers, toasters, milkshake blenders, warming lamps, and coffee grinders.  They may perform limited cooking duties involving electric or gas grills that do not entail cooking over an open flame. They may also cook with deep fat fryers that are equipped with and utilize devices that automatically raise and lower the “baskets” into and out of the hot grease of oil.

For many minors, this is their first real experience in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Remember the lessons you learned in your first job? I learned the basics, like the importance of being on time, and how much hard work was required to earn my paycheck. Because it may be their first position, a little extra coaching and development set up your employee for success.  

Dealing With Conflict and Parents

Sometimes, when employing minors, their mothers may try to intervene. Remember, most of these young adults still live with and answer to their parents. It is not uncommon to get a phone call from an irate mother fuming about a situation they heard from their child that may not even be true. I have received many phone calls from upset moms asking why the manager fired her child.  

The real story is that sweet Tommy stopped showing up for work over a month ago or was caught using drugs in the bathroom. Unless the mother is referencing illegal harassment or illegal working conditions, be polite, but remember your relationship is with the employee and not their parent. The employee is expected to behave as any other professional employee and solve their problems directly with the human resources department. 

Scheduling Works Shifts for Minors

Scheduling around school schedules, sports matches, extracurricular activities, social events, and everything else teens are doing can be tricky, especially when those commitments don’t necessarily repeat consistently. That’s where Homebase can help.

With Homebase, you don’t need to worry about last-minute schedule changes. You can have all your employees add their schedule availability in advance, even if their availability changes week to week. Then, when you’re building the schedule, you’ll be able to see at a glance who can work which shifts.

And, if something comes up after you’ve published the schedule — like a soccer game — they can easily trade shifts with a coworker on the Homebase mobile app (with your approval).

With these tips and tricks in mind, employing minors should be a breeze. However, if you have more HR and compliance questions, Homebase gives you live access to HR experts who can answer any question you may have. 

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