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How to Legally Hire Teenagers to Work for You

By Adam Ramirez | Last updated on

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

School is out for the summer. That means that there is a new, youthful workforce looking for summer employment.

That can mean less expensive, energetic employees wanting to work for your business. This may sound like a great deal for a business owner trying to save money and increase temporary staffing for the summer months.

But beware. This also means new employment laws that you have to comply with.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has specific requirements for employers of teenagers when school is not in session. Violating these provisions can result in monetary fines and penalties for your business.

Avoid those penalties by knowing how to legally hire teenagers to work for you. Here are five things you need to know:

1. Know how many hours they can work: The FSLA sets restrictions on the number of hours teenagers can work based upon age. Generally, the minimum age for employment is 14 for non-agricultural, paper delivery, or babysitting jobs.

Minors who are 14 - 15 are usually limited to 8 hours a day, up to 40 hours per week during the summer. Exemptions to these restrictions can apply when the business or farm is owned or operated by the teenager's parents. And teenagers 16 or older are not limited.

2. Know how much to pay: The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. However, the FSLA allows for a lesser hourly wage of $4.25 for employees under the age of 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment unless state or local law requires a higher wage. Make sure you know federal and your state's requirements.

3. Know what types of jobs they cannot do: No one under the age of 18 may be employed in a hazardous job.

4. Know your state's child labor laws: Child labor laws can vary greatly by state and type of job. Some states require work permits for employees under the age of 18. Others have additional age, wage, and hour restrictions. Know what additional restrictions your state's child labor laws place on your business.

5. Know how to provide a safe working environment: Communicating risks to teenage employees is different than communicating with adult employees. Provide safety training to make sure they understand workplace risks and hazards and what to do if they are injured on the job. And make sure you comply with all OSHA requirements.

Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.

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