With summer quickly approaching, it’s time to pull out those warm-weather clothes and dust off my copy of Dirty Dancing, one of my favorite summer films. Who can forget the summer of 1963 when Baby performed her triumphant lift, Johnny taught us about standing up for others no matter what it costs us, and we all learned that no one puts Baby in the corner. Like many resorts and other types of employers, the fictional Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills Mountains (actually filmed in North Carolina and Virginia) has a very clear peak season in the warmer months with the hiring of a lot of additional employees, including high school and college students seeking summer employment. Of course, any time an employer hires minors, there are special considerations and it is important to be familiar with applicable federal and state law.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law governing child labor, but it must be read together with state laws (which may be more stringent and must be observed). These laws were designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in hazardous jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health and well-being. To this end, the FLSA and state laws limit the types of jobs minors may hold as well as the hours they may work.
The good news for employers and those industrious teenagers out there is that the restrictions on work hours are typically relaxed somewhat during the summer months when school is not in session. For example, under the FLSA, 14- and 15-year-olds generally may work only between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., except from June 1 to Labor Day, when work until 9:00 p.m. is permitted. Also, those same teens may work a maximum of only 18 hours in a school week, but they may work a maximum of 40 hours in a non-school week, and there are daily maximums as well (e.g., three hours on school days versus eight hours on non-school days).
As mentioned above, hours of work aren’t the only restrictions under state and federal law for minors. There are also restrictions on the type of work permitted. For example, a 15-year-old may work as a lifeguard at a swimming pool or water amusement park under certain conditions. No one under age 16, however, may work as a dispatcher on elevated water slides or as a lifeguard at a natural environment swimming facility (e.g., lakes, rivers, oceans, beaches, etc.). In short, Kellerman’s management better make sure that the lifeguard assigned to that now famous lake is age 16 or older.
The bottom line for employers taking on teenage employees is to brush up on federal/state requirements and keep in mind that child labor restrictions may vary with the employee’s age, the type of job, and even the time of year. For those teens eager for summer employment, I suggest you start submitting those applications immediately. As for me, I am off to find some popcorn and savor that moment when Robbie’s true colors are revealed and his medical school tuition check gets ripped to shreds. Hooray for Dr. Houseman!