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Employing Teen Interns this Summer? What You Need to Know About FLSA

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Tess C. Taylor, PHR

Now that the summer months are underway, millions of American teens will be looking for jobs to save up for cars and earn college credits. That factor, coupled with President Obama’s Youth Jobs + campaign that encourages businesses to give young people a chance to learn through meaningful employment and on-the-job training programs, means there will be many teens available for seasonal and part time assignments. However, before you hang the “Help Wanted” sign up on your door, there has been a recent change to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that you should know about.

How you hire young people, the types of work they can perform, and the way you compensate them is under close scrutiny by the Department of Labor currently.

Many college students will be looking for not only part time jobs, but the opportunity to work as interns as part of their studies. Traditionally, interns have been either unpaid or receive a small stipend for their efforts. However, in a groundbreaking legal case, highlighted in our sister blog's article It’s the End of Internships as We Know It: Fox Searchlight Ordered to Pay Interns, a federal judge ordered a major motion picture production company to pay its former interns. Internships must meet the strict guidelines set forth by the FLSA rules on paid and unpaid internships. Programs must be able to prove that they offer full educational value to students, and are not merely a way to get free labor.

Students of all ages apply for summer work, including those who are just above the legal limit for working in the US. The FLSA advises that the minimum legal age of consent to be employed is 14, and students under the age of 16 have restrictions on the types of work they can perform and the number of hours they can work each week. Jobs that involve any physical risk, such as driving, heavy construction, and the operation of dangerous equipment are prohibited for young people below 16. A list of these occupational limits can be found at Youth Rules. While not all states require proof of age, students are encouraged to obtain work permits directly from their school or local workforce agencies to ensure they are not lying about their age.

When employing teens, your business is required to accommodate them in terms of providing a secure work environment, safety equipment, enrichment training, and supervision. You must pay them the federally mandated minimum wages for the state you are operating in. There are also limits on the numbers of hours that teens of a certain age can work. The US Department of Labor indicates that following:

Permissible work hours for 14- and 15-year-olds are:

  • 3 hours on a school day;

  • 18 hours in a school week;

  • 8 hours on a non-school day;

  • 40 hours in a non-school week; and

  • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.

(Source: 2013, US Department of Labor, FLSA)

Employing teen workers has many advantages, including the availability of eager, hard-working young people who want to learn and earn. While they are still developing their work habits and values, you can influence and guide them towards a meaningful career path as an employer. Teens are often technology savvy and fast learners, so your training programs will go smoother. Teen workers are also skilled in many ways, because they are currently in school and actively pursuing their career and college goals. Mentoring is often a good way to work with teens in the summer months.

If you are planning to hire teens to staff your business this summer, take the time to review the FLSA guidelines above, and do your research first. You’ll have a better experience and be able to provide a work environment where students can learn valuable life lessons.

 

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