Do you remember your first job? Was it fun or character building? Were you inspired or did it help you decide to get more education or otherwise change course so you wouldn’t end up in that role for the rest of your life? Ideally, a teen learns proper work habits, a work ethic and financial responsibility through a first job. Many employers need extra help during the summer but, whether you’re hiring young people for seasonal or year round positions, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure things go smoothly.
Be sure to pay at least the minimum wage, federal or state, whichever is higher. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does allow for a special minimum wage of $4.25 for employees under the age of 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment. After the 90-day period, you need to pay the full federal minimum wage. Please be mindful that you may not terminate the lower paid teen just as the 90 days runs out in order to hire another young person at the lower rate.
Hour Restrictions for under 16s
Under the FLSA, the minimum age for employment in non-agricultural employment is 14. There are limitations as to when and how long 14- and 15-year olds may work. Their work hours must: be non-school hours; no more than 3 hours in a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours in a non-school day, 40 hours in a non-school week; and occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.) The hours of employees aged 16 and older are not regulated.
Work Restrictions for under 18s
In non-agricultural work, the permissible jobs, by age, are as follows:
• Workers 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not;
• Workers 16 and 17 years old may perform any non-hazardous jobs; and
• Workers 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs.
New Employee Orientation
It’s a great idea to provide an orientation and training to young employees. Don’t treat temporary employees differently; they need to understand policies, rules and your culture as much as your other employees. Remember, this may be a first job for a teen so laying out the expectations can be particularly valuable. Clear expectations prevent problems and help any employee be more successful. Be explicit about basics such as timeliness, dress code, pay dates, the job description, expected behaviors, and who to go to with questions. If you can assign a work buddy to serve as a role model and go-to person, so much the better.
Sexual Harassment Awareness
Keep in mind that teens and younger employees may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. They have less life experience, may have less confidence and assertiveness, and usually perform jobs that lack power. So be sure that young hires understand your anti-harassment policies and who to go to if they encounter any problems. Keep in mind that a harasser is not always someone who works for you; it could be an outside vendor or even one of your best customers! It’s your responsibility to investigate immediately and, if there is harassment, to stop it right away. Encourage teens to report a problem right away so you can fix it. A caveat: make sure any fix does not harm the complainant in any way (e.g. worse shift, fewer hours, worse location) as that could be considered retaliation.
Finally, be sure to check your state laws to be sure you are in compliance. All states have child labor standards. When federal and state standards differ, the rules that provide the most protection to young workers apply.
Hiring teens should be a win-win for both you and the teens you hire. With your legal obligations in mind and a little extra thought put towards orienting and educating your new employees, summertime should be enjoyable for all!