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Starting a Summer Job? 5 Legal Tips That Can Pay Off

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Are your summer plans less about pool parties and more about paychecks? For many high school and college students a summer job is essential, not just for the extra spending money but for the work experience and references it may provide.

According to The Washington Post, the teen employment rate has remained near an all-time low even as the overall economy has improved. This means that finding and keeping a summer job these days takes more than just a solid resume and a warm smile (although those certainly help).

Here are five legal tips to help summer job seekers become summer job-keepers:

1. You're Never Too Young to Start.

Although the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets 14 as the minimum working age for most non-agricultural jobs, there are several noteworthy exceptions for enterprising adolescents, including:

  • Working for a business owned by their parents (except in mining manufacturing and other hazardous jobs);
  • Newspaper delivery; and
  • Babysitting or other minor chores around a private home.

2. Watch What You Say on Social Media.

Potential employers will be sure to look you up on social media. But even after you get the job, be sure to think twice before posting offensive or sensitive work-related material to your social media profiles. A Findlaw survey found that 29 percent of young adults feared their social media activity would get them fired, and about 1 in 25 had already suffered negative consequences at work as a result of social media.

3. Don't Insult Your Customers.

Employees can also get in hot water for what they say offline, especially if it's calling customers "Fat Girls" on their receipt. General rule: The customer may not always be right, but insulting them is always wrong.

4. Don't Insult Your Coworkers Either.

Calling your customers fat will probably get you fired. Repeatedly calling a black coworker "Fat Albert," however, will probably get you fired and potentially even named in a lawsuit for creating a hostile work environment. Even if said in jest, humor involving race, gender, sexual orientation or other personal attributes will get you booted from your summer job in no time flat.

5. Educate Yourself on Wage and Hour Laws.

Congratulations! You're the perfect summer employee. Unfortunately, your boss may not treat you like one. Whether it's shorting you on overtime pay or taking your tips, your boss may not be complying with the law.

The good news: FindLaw has put together a page with (nearly) everything you need to know about federal wage and hour laws and how they may affect you. To learn even more, check out FindLaw's comprehensive section on Employment Law.

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