Legal Guidelines for Hiring Under-18 Workers

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on April 15, 2011
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If you’re looking for affordable, enthusiastic help for your small business, you might be interested in hiring a few teenagers. You’ll find a huge supply of willing under-18 workers during the summer months, which can be especially appealing if you run a seasonal business and need some extra hands between June and August. But before hiring a worker under the age of 18, it’s important to know state and federal restrictions for hiring teenage employees. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

1)   Start with your own children. You’re generally eligible for significant tax breaks when you hire your own children — not to mention, it’s a great way to teach your kids good work ethics and introduce them to the family business. In many cases, owners’ children are not subject to the same age and hourly limitations imposed on other under-18 workers, so you can often hire a 12-year-old for an hourly job, assuming the child is qualified to do the work. (For instance, scooping ice cream? Fine. Working as a sauté chef? Probably not.) Regulations for hiring your children vary by state though, so talk to a lawyer before putting your kids to work.

2)   Pay attention to hourly restrictions by age. There are no restrictions on how many hours employees ages 16 and up can work, but be careful when it comes to hiring 14- and 15-year-old non-relatives. Generally, younger workers can only work between 7AM and 7PM when school is in session, with a maximum of 3 hours a day and 18 hours per week, and a maximum of 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week during summer. Again, check the guidelines in your state: If they are stricter than federal guidelines, you must follow them instead.

3)   Don’t involve underage employees in any hazardous situations. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has strict guidelines determining workplace situations that are considered unsafe for underage workers. Such situations include operating power tools, riding on a forklift, and working at a poultry slaughtering plant. Check out the Department of Labor’s YouthRules! site for more details.

4)   Carefully read through your state’s guidelines for hiring underage workers. Many states have requirements such as the need for minor work permits and proof of age certifications. Visit your state’s Department of Labor site for more specific information.

5)   When in doubt, talk with a lawyer. If you find it hard to navigate all of the state and federal restrictions on hiring underage workers, set up an appointment with an employment law attorney, who’ll be able to tell you what you need to do to avoid getting into legal trouble.

 

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