The Not-So-Minor Issues Involved in Employing Minors
Like many of you, I first started working as a minor. First for a local waterpark as a lifeguard, and then as a hostess/cashier for a popular seafood restaurant. Employment of minors benefits the minor and the employer.
The minor learns responsibility, gains some independence, sees a reward for hard work, and becomes accountable for his or her actions.
The employer can more easily fill hard to fill positions, oftentimes at a low wage, and can fill gaps in the schedule.
This summer, as many employers in the service industry struggled to fill open positions, minors filled a major gap in the workforce. Employers who turn to minors as employees should keep in mind that there are unique requirements and responsibilities associated with this decision.
The U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation enforce the myriad of child labor laws, which are designed to keep children safe and prioritize their education.
These laws recognize that a child’s brain is not fully developed, and employers have a particular responsibility to safeguard minors in their employ.
Below, we highlight several areas where employers need to be aware and ensure all managers and supervisors are properly trained. Failure to follow the specific laws on the employment of minors can result in significant fines.
Employers are not required by law to have parental permission to employ their minor child. Nor can parents give permission for their child to work more hours than are permitted by law.
There are both state and federal child labor laws limiting the hours that minors may work. Where those laws differ, employers should observe the strictest provisions depending on their location. The number of hours a minor may work varies depending on whether public school is in session.
Employers should be cognizant that they may draw minor employees from different school districts, which may have different schedules. During the summer and vacation weeks, minors may work unlimited hours.
Minors are not allowed to work more than four hours without a 30 minute, uninterrupted meal break. Like all provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, this rule is strictly enforced, and each insufficient break can be fined as a separate violation for which supervisors could have personal responsibility in addition to the employer.
Minors may not work more than six consecutive days in one week.
There are certain rare circumstances where minors may be exempt from hour limitations. Examples include, if the minor is married, has graduated from high school, serves in the military, or has an official waiver.
Employers should be cautious in determining whether a minor may be exempt and may want to consult with counsel.
Safety and Hazards
The responsibility of close supervision means that minors must be trained on safe work practices, recognizing hazards, and responding to emergencies from the outset of their employment. There are limits on the kinds of work minors can do in restaurants and other specific industries.
In addition to ordinary training on hazards, such as handling sharp objects, lifting heavy trays, or operating hot equipment, minors should be trained on workplace violence. Twenty percent of youth workplace injuries are attributable to violent crime.
This article offers a surface level overview of potential issues involved in the employment of minors. We are ready to advise on specific situations or provide brief supervisor trainings on this hot topic for 2021.