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Essential Guide to Hiring Teens for Summer Jobs

About four million teenagers will hold summer jobs in the U.S. this year.  If you plan to be among the millions of small business owners who provide those jobs it’s important to know the special rules that govern teenage workers.

Government statistics show that young workers suffer a disproportionate share of on-the-job injuries.  According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at least 160,000 teens suffer work-related injuries or illnesses each year; about a third requiring emergency room treatment. That can put your business at risk. And many injuries occur in businesses you might not think of.  For example, more than 75% of incidents happen in the retail and service industries – not sectors usually considered more injury-prone such as manufacturing and construction.

Young workers – especially those in their first summer jobs – are at greater risk of workplace injury due to inexperience. And also because, well, they are teenagers who may hesitate to ask questions (my own teens know everything, so why bother to ask?) and may fail to recognize workplace dangers.

Here are 10 teen hiring essentials:

1. Review federal and state laws on teen employment — especially the rules on what types of jobs teens are allowed to perform, and which ones they aren’t.  Many small businesses, and especially those just starting out, aren’t sure what’s required of them, or where to look for help.

2. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor rules affecting full- and part-time workers in the private sector. The rules vary depending on the age of the young worker and his or her duties. But two things are certain: a) Once an employee is 18, there are no Federal child labor rules, and; b) Federal child labor rules do not require work permits.

3. Dozens of private suppliers sell OSHA compliance materials, and there are many safety consultants to choose from, available easily online. But your best starting point is OSHA’s small business website which offers abundant assistance. Visit: Check out Compliance Assistance Quick Start, which helps new small businesses understand the rules and find the right resources.

4. The Department of Labor has a special website devoted to the rules of youth employment called Youth Rules at  Here you’ll find information and links to almost everything you need to know about both federal and state rules and limits on the hours teens are allowed to work, and jobs they can perform, including key information on age requirements, wages and resources for young workers.

5. Another helpful government site called Young Workers has a wide range of information on summer job safety for specific sectors such as construction, landscaping, parks and recreation, life guarding and restaurants. Under landscaping, for example, you’ll find tips on preventing injury from pesticides, electrical hazards, noise and many others.

6. The small business FAQ section is a must. It includes a long list of the most common questions small business owners have about hiring teens, along with dozens of links to detailed answers.

7. Restaurants rank especially high among industries at risk for teen worker injuries. OSHA even has  a special website devoted to safety for teen workers, covering areas such as serving, drive-thru, cooking, delivery and others.

8. Hours and Age Restrictions: For teens employed in non-agricultural jobs, restrictions on hours and jobs include these:

  • Minimum age is 14.
  • Those 18 or older may perform any job (hazardous or not) for unlimited hours.
  • Youth 16 or 17 may perform any non-hazardous job for unlimited hours.
  • Youth 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs. They cannot work more than three hours a day on school days; or more than 40 hours per week when school is not in session.
  • During the school year, 14- and 15-year-olds may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. However, during the summer that’s extended to 9:00 p.m.

9). State labor laws can differ. Check the list of State Labor Offices to find the appropriate agency in your state.

10. Before you assign a job to a minor, be sure that it is allowed by law. If you have a specific question regarding the job which you are hiring a minor to perform, contact the Department of Labor’s toll-free help line at 866-4US-WAGE (866-487-9243).

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