Thursday, June 2, 2011

School's out for summer: what you need to know if you plan on hiring high-schoolers

Remember those long, hot days of summer when you were in high school? If you were lucky, you had a summer job to fund beach days and road trips (or even save for College). Plenty of business owners got their start working for a friend or relative during vacations, whether it was in construction or filing papers in an office. Like many things in the employment realm, however, things in California have gotten a whole lot more complicated when it comes to hiring teenagers. If you are considering hiring a minor (under the age of 18) you need to follow a few simple rules to help you, and your teenage employee, comply with the law.

1. The law limits the type of work a minor can do.

Federal law designates some occupations as hazardous for minors. These include mining, working with explosives, meatpacking, roofing and excavation. For more information on occupations deemed "hazardous," click here. For potential employees under 16, the list is longer, and includes occupations such as manufacturing, operating motor vehicles, transportation, warehousing, communications, construction or hazardous farm work. As with many labor laws, California rules are tighter than the federal rules. More information on tasks deemed hazardous in California can be found here.

2. The law limits how many hours a minor can work.

During the school year, minors aged 16 to 17 are limited to four hours of work on a school day and eight hours on a weekend or holiday. The working day cannot start before 5 a.m. or end after 10 p.m. on a school day; for weekends, this is extended to 12:30 a.m. but be aware of local curfew rules.

During vacation times, minors may work up to 8 hours a day but no more than 48 hours a week. Special exceptions are available(for example, in some agricultural occupations a work day may extend to ten hours) but these are rare and only apply if the California Labor Commissioner grants an exception.

Minors 14 to 15 may only work three hours on a school day and eight hours on a nonschool day. The working day cannot start before 7 a.m. or end after 7 p.m. on a school day; over the summer vacation this is extended to 9 p.m. During the summer, minors 14-15 can work up to 40 hours per week.

Minors under 12 cannot work at all, and minors aged 12 to 13 can only work during vacations, when they are limited to eight hours each day and 40 hours per week.

Confused? This handy table from the Department of Industrial Relations might help.

3. It is (almost always) illegal to employ a minor without a valid work permit.

Unless the minor employee is your son or daughter and you are employing them to work in your own agricultural business during the vacation (and the task is not hazardous), you cannot employ a minor without a work permit. Work permits are available from the minor's school or school district. For example, Santa Barbara School District issues permits once a week. Find details here. A copy of the work permit application form is available here. If you employed the same minor last year, it is worth remembering that you need a new work permit each year. Work permits can be revoked by the school and you must comply with all applicable labor and child labor laws when employing the minor.

4. Is it worth it?

With high unemployment and an uncertain economy, you might ask whether it is worth the trouble of hiring a high school student for a summer job. As with all hiring, taking a moment to ensure you have followed the rules is important - but the benefits can be significant. If in doubt, think back to your own summer job and the opportunities someone gave you, and play it forward. Every business is different, and the information above is intended as an overview of the law, rather than a detailed primer. If you want to know more about how the laws governing child labor in California apply to you and your business, contact me. I offer free consultations to employers in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and Kern Counties, and if appropriate, I will work with your business to draw up a minor hiring policy.

Summer jobs and minor work permit resources:

Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work Permit [LINK]

California Department of Education - Work Permit FAQs [LINK]

California Department of Industrial Relations Child Labor Handbook [LINK]

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