Commentary: Laws protect teens’ rights in the workplaceAs the school halls empty for summer break, now is a good time to review teen workers’ rights and responsibilities regarding hours of work, minimum wage and safety in the workplace.
By: By Ken Peterson, The Republican Eagle
By Ken Peterson
Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
As the school halls empty for summer break, now is a good time to review teen workers’ rights and responsibilities regarding hours of work, minimum wage and safety in the workplace.
This summer, thousands of Minnesota teens will be employed in part-time or summer jobs, some of them for the first time. So before teens jump into the employment pool, they should know some basics about state and federal regulations concerning hours, wages, age limitations and prohibited types of work, as well as employee safety and health.
The Department of Labor and Industry has developed an informational handout, “Youth rules for kids at work,” and created Web pages with specific links for teen workers (www.dli.mn.gov/LS/TeenWorkers.asp). These resources are designed to provide quick access to key information about child labor related laws at both the state and federal levels.
A majority of calls the agency’s labor standards investigators receive each year about teens in the workplace are questions related to minimum wage, hours of work and hazardous occupations. Many of the things parents hear — and sometimes business owners hear — about child labor laws are from relatives, friends or other workers’ experience, not the actual statutes and rules.
One of the most common complaints Department of Labor and Industry receives is that teens work too late at night. In situations where both federal and state laws apply to an employer, the more protective standard must be followed. Most Minnesota employers are required to comply with the following provisions
• The minimum age for employment is 14, unless a federal or state law exemption allows for a younger minimum age.
• Hours worked by 14- and 15-year-olds are limited to: nonschool hours; eight hours on a nonschool day; 40 hours in a nonschool week; three hours in a school day; 18 hours in a school week; and, from June 1 through Labor Day, hours between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. (after Labor Day, 7 p.m. becomes the latest this group may work).
• Sixteen- and 17-year-olds may not work: after 11 p.m. on any evening before a school day; or before 5 a.m. on any school day. With written permission from a parent or guardian, a 16- or 17-year-old may begin work at 4:30 a.m. on a school day or work until 11:30 p.m. on an evening before a school day.
Another area of misconception is that employers can pay teens less than the minimum wage. However, employees must be paid at least the current minimum wage rate, regardless of the method of compensation, for all hours worked, including training time.
In Minnesota, a training wage of $4.90 may be paid to new employees under the age of 20 during their first 90 days of employment. Small employers, those with an annual sales volume of less than $500,000 and not engaged in interstate commerce, must pay at least $5.25 an hour. Federally covered employers, those businesses with an annual dollar volume of business of $500,000 or more, or engaged in interstate commerce, must pay at least $7.25 an hour.
In addition, there are both Minnesota and federal child labor laws that restrict minors from working in certain hazardous jobs and from operating or assisting with the operation of certain hazardous equipment.
I believe early work experiences can be rewarding for young workers — providing great opportunities to learn important job skills. Our goal is to help workers of all ages have a safe and rewarding work experience.
For more information about child labor laws, contact the Department of Labor and Industry’s labor standards unit at 651-284-5005; for information related to safety and health in the workplace, contact the Minnesota OSHA unit at 651-284-5050. Both work units may also be reached toll-free at 800-DIAL-DLI (800-342-5354).
Ken Peterson is commissioner of Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.