HR Rules for Hiring Minors
Many businesses employ workers under the age of 18, but employers should be aware of the state and federal rules that govern their employment.
The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor prioritizes protecting young workers by ensuring that employers provide safe environments with no risk of workplace injury or jeopardy to minors’ health, well-being or educational opportunities. Here are some provisions you should know about:
- Children under 14 cannot be employed, except if they work for a parent or as a newspaper carrier.
- Minors aged 14 to 15 are permitted to work outside school time in nonhazardous jobs for three hours a day and 18 hours a week. During holidays and school breaks, they can work eight hours a day and 40 hours a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 9 p.m. during the summer.
- Teens aged 16 to 17 aren’t restricted from working during school hours, but there are limits to the number of hours worked, except for agricultural employment and for student learners or apprentices. However, there are special guidelines for agricultural workers that, among other things, impose limits on the use of hazardous equipment.
- Children under the age of 18 may not work in certain hazardous occupations: excavation, manufacturing explosives, mining or operating many types of power-driven equipment.
Beyond Federal Rules
States, too, have laws regulating minimum work ages, hours of work, types of jobs and required documentation for minors. Work permits or certificates are required in many but not all states. Employers should check their state’s rules. When federal and state standards are different, the rules that provide the most protection to the employees apply, except in cases of small businesses that do not engage in interstate commerce in any way, which are subject to state laws only. If a business generates a total income of $500,000 a year, generates any income outside the state where it is based or makes goods that are sold in another state, it’s subject to federal labor laws.
Keep age certificates for minors on file while they’re working, and return them when employment is over so the minor can work in the future. Certificates may be issued by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division or more commonly by state agencies or schools. Birth or baptismal certificates with proof of age can be used for states without age certificates.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an employer is permitted to pay employees who are under age 20 a minimum wage of $4.25 an hour for the first 90 days of employment if the youth’s job doesn’t displace other workers. More guidelines on the federal youth minimum wage are available on the DOL site.
Knowing the federal and state rules regarding young workers will enable you to employ minors in lawful work activities and help ensure they have safe and rewarding work experiences. Contact us for counsel on any questions about hiring youth. These are just summaries of complex rules, and other provisions and exceptions may apply.