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Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Summer Hiring

As summer comes around, employers need to be aware of the laws pertaining to hiring minors. When it comes to hiring young people, especially minors, there are different regulations to keep in mind in order to ensure compliance with federal law.

First, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) establishes the federal rules on hiring minors. There are some exceptions, but young people generally receive minimum wage and overtime. In addition, there are regulations dictating what kinds of jobs—and what kind of activities at those jobs—minors can perform. Because the goal is to protect youth, federal law rules out certain occupations, which includes all of the Department of Labor’s “hazardous occupations.” These jobs involve obvious ones like coal mining or those that entail exposure to radioactive substances, but also driving a motor vehicle or using power-driven tools. So, the most basic issue is that minors are prohibited from employment in these fields.

Next, age of the minor becomes an important factor. For sixteen and seventeen year-olds, the above restriction is pretty much the only one, which means they can generally be employed. For those younger than fourteen, there is not much they can do under the law except for a babysitting gig.

The law gets a bit more complicated for the in-between age group of fourteen and fifteen year-olds, as a work discrimination lawyer  can explain. For fourteen and fifteen year-olds, work can consist of office and clerical activities, such as stocking shelves, cashiering, or artistic jobs. While this age group can be employed to lifeguard or wash cars, it remains important for employers to be cognizant of number of hours and other legally pertinent restrictions. Specifically, federal law mandates that there are total-hour and time-of-day limitations for this group. However, this depends largely on whether public school is in session, so now that summer is here and public school is out of session, there are no limits on maximum hours per day. This group can have a forty-hour workweek if they so choose, as well, during the summer.

Some practices to consider on the business end are getting a Department of Labor age certificate for the young person working at their place of business; outlining the duties, hours, and tasks assigned to the person to make sure the business is complying with the kinds of jobs youth can undertake; and supervising the worker thoroughly. On the other side, for young workers, it is important for them and their guardians to be vigilant regarding employer compliance with federal law.

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