Q: What employment issues should employers consider when hiring minor employees?
A: With summer approaching, many employers are looking to minor employees as a source of labor. Increasing staff for the summer season is a welcomed addition for many employers. In addition, summer jobs expose youth to tangible skills that foster self-reliance and the ability to gain valuable work experience. However, there are various statutes and regulations at the federal, state and local levels, of which employers should be aware prior to hiring minors. First, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division is charged with enforcing federal child labor laws and has created detailed regulations governing prohibited and permitted employment for minors falling in one of two categories: (1) 16 and 17 years old; and (2) 14 and 15 years old. In fact, the DOL has an entire set of regulations specific to youth employment.
A few key rules to remember are except for very limited exceptions, youth employees are entitled to minimum wage and overtime rules. But, with minors, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) goes a step further and includes other protections in the form of when and what minors can do. For example, minors are not allowed to perform jobs that are determined to be hazardous in a non-agricultural setting. The good news is that, while the hazardous occupations can be tedious to evaluate sometimes, these federal child labor restrictions only apply to 16- and 17-year-olds. The DOL has evaluated many common hazardous jobs and has a list online of acceptable and nonacceptable jobs for the 16- and 17-year-old minors.
The federal rules and an explanation of the state rules regarding what jobs a minor can and cannot perform are laid out in Code of Federal Regulation. To learn more visit ecfr.gov and click on Title 29, Subtitle B, Chapter V, Subchapter and scroll down to click on Part 570.
Minors who are 14 and 15 years of age generally can perform tasks such as office and clerical work, cashiering and stocking shelves. They also can perform limited food service work, maintenance work, and, in some instances, running errands and washing vehicles, among other things. Even so, for this group employers must be mindful not just of the type of work, but of the hours.
In addition, some states have issued their own list of prohibited practices depending on the minor’s age. Employers should be aware of state restrictions on the hours and number of hours a minor may work, which often depend on the minor’s age and whether or not the work is being performed on a school day or preceding a school day. Hours of work per jurisdiction should be confirmed by the employer. In addition, some states have meal and rest break requirements specific to minor employees.
Finally, many states have work permit requirements, which vary by jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions require parental consent to employ a minor, which is most common when the minor is 14 or 15 years old. Because the rules per age of the minor changes potential duties, the employer should collect a form of age identification. That may be a driver’s license or a document similar to a copy of a birth certificate. The identification each state deems valid to prove age also is different.
Before hiring minors, consider all that you’ve read. The FLSA’s child labor restrictions are heavily enforced and management bears the burden of abiding by these rules. So, before diving into the deep end of summer recruitment, employers should consider the following tips:
- Obtain a copy of a valid certification of age. Confirming age is the responsibility of the employer. The DOL will not care if the child lied or “looks older.”
- Make job duties clear to ensure the minor does not perform a hazardous job or one that is outside of the appropriate parameters for their age group.
- Most importantly, make sure minor employees are properly managed by a supervisor who understands and knows the rules for youth employment.
Handled correctly, hiring minors can be a great introduction to your next wave of permanent work force.
This column is provided by Ogletree Deakins, Atlanta, as part of a partnership with the American Rental Association (ARA) for ARA’s Human Resources Assistance Program. ARA members can receive a single sign on from the ARA webpage to a microsite specific to ARA on the Ogletree Deakins platform; get access to two 30-minute calls with an HR professional per year; access to an FAQ section as well as to Ogletree Deakins’ library of webinars; and access to Ogletree Deakins’ ARA-specific webinars. To learn more, visit ARArental.org/Manage-Business/HR.