Hiring Minors in Summer
Employing Minors This Summer?
Summer is a great time of year for businesses. Employing minors for extra help is often done during the summer. If your business is in a tourism-heavy town, this is one of the biggest and best times of year for you and your workers. Warmer temperatures bring in more potential customers, who are looking to get out of the heat for a few minutes.
And schools let out for a few months!
If your business relies on a little extra help in the summer, from the hordes of school-aged children who have tons of free time on their hands, then it pays dividends for you to be thoroughly familiar with the child-labor limitations that the federal Fair Labor Standards Acts lays out.
Age-based restrictions for employment
There are few different categories of potential restrictions, which depend in part on the minor employee’s age. Many of these restrictions apply to what is termed “non-agricultural work.”
Non-Agricultural Work Stipulations
The FLSA allows minors who are at least sixteen years of age to be employed in any activity that is not listed under one of the USDOL’s 17 “Hazardous Occupations” orders. In particular, one of these prohibits that minor from driving a motor-vehicle on any public road or highway under most circumstances. These rules do not pertain to or limit the hours such a minor can work.
There are other regulations which also apply to non-agricultural work, which state that minors of fourteen and fifteen years of age may work in limited occupations. These limitations also apply specific total-hours and times-of-day strictures to these minors in permitted jobs. For example, these minors can only work outside of school-hours, and they are not allowed to work before 7 in the morning, or after 7 in the evening. The one exception to this particular rule is that from the first of June through Labor Day in September, a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old may work until 9 in the evening. These minors also are limited to not more than three hours of work on a school day, and not more than 18 total hours in one school-week. On non-school days, a minor may work up to 8 hours in one day, and up to 40 total hours in one non-school week.
If a minor is under the age of fourteen years, they generally cannot be employed in non-agricultural occupations. There are, however, a few narrowly-applied exemptions, like newspaper delivery. There are many more rules and regulations relating specifically to employing a minor under age fourteen, and this blog will not go into further detail on that complex topic.
For more information on employing minors in non-agricultural occupations, please see the USDOL’s site.
Agricultural Work Stipulations
There are different rules and regulations that the USDOL sets up for minors employed in agricultural work. One example is that children twelve- and thirteen-years-old may work on a farm outside school hours, if a parent gives consent or is employed on the same farm. For more information on this topic, please see the USDOL’s summary.
Mistaken “Common Sense” Assumptions of Hiring Underage Employees
For the most part, the child-labor rules set up by the FLSA are “no excuses” regulations.
A common problem with hiring minors is that management misjudges the age of a minor. Management may illegally employ a minor, because they assumed a child’s age, and did not perform due diligence and research. The USDOL will never be swayed by an argument that the minor “looked” old enough to perform the tasks required by the job, or that the minor intentionally misled the employer regarding his or her actual age.
The only way to reliably verify and legally employ a minor is to obtain and file a USDOL-sanctioned, valid, unexpired age certificate, which establishes a minor’s legal age for FLSA purposes.
These same child-labor restrictions are not relaxed or waived, just because the minor is employed as a “favor” to his or her parents. The same goes for a situation where the child’s parent is a supervisor or manager, and will oversee what the minor does. An employer should not ever just rely on verbal or implied parental consent or supervision; instead, management should thoroughly examine all regulations and be certain that the intended employment of the minor in question is legal and allowed.
A good starting point for evaluating the potential employment of minors in your business this summer would be the USDOL summaries. There is one each for non-agricultural and agricultural employment situations. While these are simply overviews of the major regulations and rules, they do provide good information, and can bring to light areas that need further investigation as it specifically applies to your situation.
There are civil penalties for violations of the FLSA’s minor-employment regulations. For example, one illegally-employed minor can garner your business up to $12,278 in fines and penalties. First-time violations are substantial, and (Heaven forbid), if a minor should be seriously injured or killed while employed in your business, the fines and penalties could easily bankrupt your business. Criminal prosecution may also be undertaken against your business. For more information on the potential penalties associated with illegal employment of minors, see the DOL’s summaries here and here.
Many states and specific jurisdictions have their own child-labor limitations and regulations. Some of these are more strict than the FLSA’s over-arching standards, and employers should study their state’s rules and laws when considering employing minors this summer. For help understanding and researching your state’s minor-employment laws, contacting your local Wage and Hour Division office may be your best bet. The USDOL provides a comprehensive listing of local WHD offices in each state; check here for help locating your local Wage and Hour Division office.