The summer job season for teenagers kicks off in the next few weeks. Therefore, employers planning to hire young workers to augment their workforce must make sure they are compliant with the child labor provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act to avoid facing steep penalties.
Whether they are bagging groceries or mowing lawns, working teenagers are subject to relatively stringent child labor requirements under the FLSA. The rules also can be confusing, because they vary significantly depending on a worker’s age and whether he or she is working in an agricultural setting.
It’s important to emphasize why compliance is so important. Employers that violate any of the FLSA’s child labor provisions are subject to a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for each employee. The penalty limit rises to $50,000 if a violation causes the serious injury or death of any employee under age 18. If the violation is considered a repeat or willful violation, the penalty limit rises to $100,000.
Employers also are potentially subject to a civil money penalty of up to $1,100 for violating the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime provisions. In severe situations the FLSA does provide for the U.S. Department of Labor to seek criminal penalties.
Under the FLSA rules for nonagricultural work, youths age 18 or older may work in any occupation at any time if they are doing nonagricultural work. This rule also applies to workers who are ages 16 and 17, but only if they are working in a nonhazardous occupation.
Workers who are 14- and 15-years-old may only work during certain hours, and the list of occupations they are allowed to participate in is even more limited, they are only permitted to work in certain industries and a strict list of permitted types of work must be followed.
A limited number of exemptions allow youths age 13 and younger to work as newspaper deliverers or as child actors. Children who work for their parents or a custodian in any occupation other than manufacturing, mining or any of the industries listed as hazardous for workers ages 16 and 17 also are exempt.
The rules for agricultural work are different. Youths age 16 and older may work in any agricultural occupation at any time. Youths ages 14 and 15 may work at any non-hazardous agricultural job as long as they are not working during school hours. Youths ages 12 and 13 may work under the same conditions as 14- and 15-year-olds, but they must have written consent from a parental figure or be working on the same farm as a parental figure. Youths age 11 and younger can work under the same conditions as 12- and 13-year-olds on “small farms.”
There are also restrictions on the hours of work for 14- and 15-year-olds and the times of day they may be employed. Generally these young employees may not work during school hours during the school year and the number of hours they may work are strictly limited. During the summer young workers cannot work more than 40 hours in a week, or more than 8 hours in a day.
For a full discussion of the rules applicable to young workers, consult Thompson’s HR Compliance Expert.