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School is Out and Summer Jobs are In: Employment Law Basics for Hiring Minors

June 20th, 2017 by David Minces

Turn up the AC…summer has formally arrived

Today is the first official day of summer. While Texans have been feeling the summer heat for months now, the hiring process is just warming up for school aged kids looking to make some extra cash this season. For some industries like hospitality, entertainment, and retail, the summer seasonal peaks in business would be debilitating without extra help. Seasonal employment in these industries is crucial to keep the waterpark lines down, hotel check-in waits short, and food service experiences pleasant. Minors can be a perfect fit for seasonal positions, but some employers have concerns with hiring those under 18.

What about the extra laws that apply to minors? A lawsuit is the last thing my business needs.

Despite what most business owners may think, there are not many extra protections for minors in the workplace, especially in Texas. While school is in session the amount of hours a minor can work and when they are allowed to work can get complicated, but while school is out there is good bit of freedom for teens to work regular hours. Minors 14 years of age and younger can babysit on a casual basis, work for a parent, or deliver newspapers. Teens ages 14 to 15 can work various retail jobs with some hour restrictions. Those ages 16 to 17 can work an unlimited number of hours in any nonhazardous job. All employees ages 14 and up must be paid at least the federal minimum wage, just like any adult or non-seasonal employee.

The case for youth employment

Seasonal fluctuations create business needs that some younger employees are best suited for. Up through the late 1990s, over half of teenagers held a summer job. By 2004 that number was below 45% and in 2017 only about 1 in 4 teenagers finds summer employment. Having a job, even if it is only part-time, is proven to teach responsibility, life skills, interviewing expertise, and self-esteem to developing minds. For business owners, teens can provide flexible scheduling, a unique sense of creativity, and a blank canvas for training.

What about state laws?

In addition to federal law, many states have their own laws regarding minor workers. All businesses, not just those subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), must follow state law. In Texas, limits only apply to 14 and 15 year old employees. 16 and 17 year olds may work as many hours as they want at any time of day. Per Texas state law, 14 and 15 year olds may not work more than 8 hours per day, or 48 hours in one week. They may also not work before 5 a.m. or after 10 p.m. (when a school day follows) under Texas state law. The FLSA’s provisions are slightly more stringent when it comes to 14 and 15 year old employees, so it is best to consult with an employment attorney to determine which laws apply to you and how to prevent from violating them.

What should I do if I want to hire a seasonal worker?

One major key to successful and productive minor employment is safety. Properly training a teenage employee not only helps them develop career skills, but it helps your business run accordingly. Additionally, proper training aids in avoiding on the job injuries. One consideration business owners should contemplate is whether they can devote the time and resources to training a summer employee adequately.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) gives significant guidance on what employers are required to provide to young workers, including:

  • Compliance with relevant federal and state labor laws;
  • Training to recognize hazards such as fire, accidents and violent situations;
  • Implementing a “buddy system” for teens to provide assistance in performing their new job;
  • Encouraging questions about unclear procedures or tasks;
  • Communicating in a way teens can understand;
  • Ensuring that equipment used by young workers is legal and safe for use;
  • Providing adequate instructions on what to do if they are hurt on the job.

In terms of benefits, most seasonal employees are not entitled to benefits that may be offered to full-time or permanent employees. This is another way that a summer employee can help cut business costs while bulking up on staff. There are some exceptions and thresholds that can be met to trigger benefit eligibility for seasonal or part-time employees so obtaining the advice of counsel is advised for businesses before bringing seasonal employees on-board.

Hiring a seasonal worker who is under 18 could provide a lot of benefits to your business, your potential employees, and the community. However, there are some additional legal and logistical factors to consider before taking on a teen employee. If you are interested in learning more about how to properly hire, compensate, and employ a summer employee Minces PLLC can help you comply with the relevant legal requirements.

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