In the workaday world, a minor is anyone under the age of 18. Hiring minors, especially for temporary, seasonal positions, can be a win-win situation. The employer gets labor at a cheaper rate than he would if he hired an adult. The minor gets experience and a small degree of financial freedom. Before posting a Craigslist ad for a painter or lifeguard, however, employers should be aware of some employment rules and regulations that are different for minors than for adults.
1. Know your age categories. With a few exceptions (e.g., film and stage and agricultural work), children under the age of 14 cannot be legally employed. Minors that are 14-15-years-old may take jobs, but the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) also places significant restrictions on the number of days and the total number of hours they can work. For 16-17-year-olds, they can work as many days and for as many hours as needed, provided they are compensated accordingly. An employer would be wise to request an age certificate to prove the age of his employee. The Wage and Hour division of the Department of Labor issues these certificates.
2. Minors must be paid youth minimum wage. Minors must receive a minimum wage of at least $4.25 an hour unless state regulations mandate they be paid standard minimum wage. As soon as the minor becomes 20, the employer must raise the employee’s salary to standard minimum wage.
3. Minors may not work hazardous jobs. With a few exceptions, no one under the age of 18 may be employed to work a job that has been categorized as hazardous by the federal government. These jobs include, but are not limited to mining, working with power tools, manufacturing brick or tile and working with radioactive substances.
4. Exceptions abound. As might be expected, there are numerous exceptions to the above three statements. State laws, for example, take precedence over the FLSA. The rules for minors working in the agricultural world are different from those for children working on the stage, which are different for those who have a paper route. An employment attorney will be knowledgeable about both Federal and state employment laws and can ensure that your hiring practices and work requirements are within legal limits.