What Employers Need To Know About Hiring Minors
Doug Heywood, G&A Partners' Director of Safety, outlines what employers who plan to hire minors this summer should be aware of and keep in mind, both in Texas and across the country.
Summer is fast approaching, the school year is winding down, and thousands of young people across Texas and the nation will be looking for and filling vacant positions. Many businesses hire minors to fill part-time and entry-level positions, supporting the communities they live and work in while giving underage youth the opportunity to learn essential work skills. While getting that first job is one of the rites of passage for many young people, employers need to understand and follow the rules governing the employment of minors to ensure the well-being of the underage employee while limiting any potential liability.
Who regulates youth employment?
The employment of minors is regulated at both the federal and state level by the United States Department of Labor, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the individual states. Generally speaking, the law or regulation that gives the highest level of protection to the minor employee is the one that carries the most weight.
Child labor laws prohibit underage employees from performing certain occupations identified as dangerous or potentially hazardous for young workers. This includes jobs that require the minor employee to work certain hours, operate machinery, or even drive a vehicle.
Age-related restrictions on youth employment
The type of job duties that an underage person can perform is also determined by their age. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets 14 as the minimum employment age for most non-agricultural work. However, the law provides special exceptions for certain types of work, and states that youth of any age may: deliver newspapers; perform in radio, TV, movie and theatrical productions; babysit; and perform minor chores around a private household. While the FLSA sets the minimum federal age for youth employment, states have the ability to pass their own child labor laws that set higher minimum employment age requirements than the FLSA.
In Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission governs child labor, and has set specific regulations about the work that 14- and 15-year-olds can perform, and has prohibited several occupations that are deemed hazardous for employees under the age of 16. Prohibited occupations include:
- operating a motor vehicle or acting as “helpers” in passenger cars;
- working in warehouses;
- maintaining or repairing mechanical equipment;
- working on ladders or scaffolding; and
- loading and unloading goods to and from trucks, railroad cars, or conveyor systems.
While there are a few exceptions, the general rule is that minors between the ages 14 of 15 are limited to office or clerical type positions.
What are the hours a minor can work?
Both the state of Texas and the federal government also regulate the hours a minor employee can work.
According to the FLSA, minors under the age of 16 cannot:
- work during school hours;
- work more than 3 hours a day on school days or more than 18 hours during a school week;
- work more than 8 hours during a non-school day or 40 hours in a non-school week;
- work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. while school is in session; or
- work between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. while school is not in session (June 1 through Labor Day).
In cases where the FLSA does not apply and interstate commerce is not involved, Texas state law states that minors under the age of 16 may not:
- work more than 8 hours in a day or 48 hours in a week;
- work between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on nights before school days; or
- work between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m on nights before non-school days.
In contrast, 16- and 17-year-old workers may perform any non-hazardous job for unlimited hours, and 18-year-old workers can work any job regardless of the hazards involved.
Employer Requirements & Penalties
All employers are required to provide their employees with a safe working environment, free of recognized hazards. In the case of minors, employers have additional requirements, such as making sure that the underage employee is properly trained and supervised at all times.
In Texas, employers who fail to follow the child labor laws can be charged with a Class B or Class A misdemeanor, and be fined an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each violation. Chronic offenders can be criminally prosecuted under the Fair labor Standards Act (FLSA), and are subject to additional fines and potential injunctive relief.
Employing underage minors in your business can be a win-win situation that allows you to fill labor shortages and give teenagers valuable skills that they will carry into the workplace for years to come. By paying attention to and following the existing child labor laws, you help ensure a safer workplace for all of your employees, while giving back to the communities you do business in.
Additional information on employing underage minors can be found on The United States Department of Labor and OSHA websites, as well as on state labor department websites.
Doug Heywood is the Director of Safety at G&A Partners, and brings over two decades of safety experience with multiple industries to the G&A team. To learn more about how Doug and G&A's team of Safety Specialists work with clients to develop safety policies and create a healthy and safe work environment for all employees, call 866-634-6713 to speak with an expert or schedule a free business consultation.