HUMAN RESOURCES: Employing Minors – Ignorance of the law can hurt them and you

As the summer season approaches, many local employers are expanding their workforce in anticipation of the influx of business. For many, that includes hiring teenagers.

The employment of minors is highly regulated by both federal and state law. Through this article we’ll share important information that we hope will help you avoid violating the law.

The Fair Labor Standard Act governs the employment of minors under federal law. The Michigan laws governing the employment of youths are found in the Michigan Youth Standards Act at MCLA 409.101 et seq. Federal and state laws differ in certain areas, therefore, employers must be familiar with both laws and abide by the stricter law if they differ.

From Labor Day to June 1, 14 and 15 year olds may be employed:

* Before or after school hours

* Not more than three hours in one day

* Not more than 18 hours in one week

* Not more than 6 days per week

* Not more than a combined school and work week of 48 hours

* Only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

From June 1 to Labor Day, 14 and 15 year olds:

* May not work more than 8 hours in one day or more than 40 hours in one week

* May only work between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

When school is in session, the following applies to 16 and 17 year olds:

* May not work more than 10 hours per day

* Not more than 6 days per week and not more than a weekly average of 8 hours a day

* Not more than a weekly average of 48 hours per week

* If the student is in school, the combined school and work week must not exceed 48 hours while school is in session

* May work between 6 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.

When school is out for a break of 7 days or longer, kids ages 16 and 17 may work:

* Not more than 10 hours per day and not more that 6 days per week

* Not more than a weekly average of 8 hours a day and not more than a weekly average of 48 hours per week

* Between 6 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.

In order to be employed, a teenager must be at least 14 years of age, unless exempt from the Youth Employment Standards Act, and have a work permit.

The permit must be completed before the teenager starts work and kept on file by the employer. If a teen changes jobs, a new work permit is required for the new employer.

Prohibited jobs for 14 and 15 year olds include those involving:

* Manufacturing

* Operating or tending of any hoisting apparatus or of any power driven machinery other than office machinery

* Outside window washing or any other work that requires the use of ladders, scaffolds and their substitutes

* Set up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling or repairing power driven food machinery

* Work in freezers and meat coolers

* Loading and unloading goods to and from trucks

* Any occupation that is considered hazardous for this age group

* Employment involving any duties on trains, motor vehicles, aircraft, vessels or other media of transportation unless they are doing office work (i.e., ticket offices or sales work)

* They are also prohibited from working on construction sites including demolition and repair

Minors ages 16 and 17 are prohibited from working as:

* A motor vehicle driver or outside helper on any public road or highway with limited exceptions (that are addressed below)

* Operating power driven woodworking machinery

* Operating dangerous machinery such as circular saws or veneer clippers

* Operating elevators, cranes, derricks, hoists or high-lift trucks

* Riding on a man-lift or on a freight elevator unless there is an assigned operator on the elevator

* Operating, assisting to operate, setting up, adjusting, repairing, etc. kitchen equipment

* All work involved in wrecking or demolition

* All work involved in roofing

* Excavation operations

* Working within tunnels

* Working with automatic feed and ejection machinery

* Working with rolling machines, press or punch machines, bending machines


Sixteen year olds may not drive on public roads as part of employment. But 17 year olds may drive cars and trucks as work if:

* The driving is restricted to daylight hours

* The employee has a valid license, no record of moving violations at the time of hire and has completed a state approved driving course

* The vehicle has a seat belt and the employer instructs the employee to use it

* The vehicle weighs 6,000 pounds or less

* The driving does not involve towing of vehicles, urgent deliveries or route deliveries or sales

* The driving does not entail a traveling place of employment

* The driving is occasional and incidental to the teen’s employment which is no more than 1/3 of an employee’s working time in a day and 20 percent of such time in a work week

State law requires that minors involved in occupations involving cash transactions cannot work after sunset or 8 p.m., whichever is earlier, unless an employer or other employee 18 years of age or older is present during those hours.

Teens need help to work safely and their inexperience often counts against them. Supervisors can help compensate for inexperience by showing teens how to perform a job correctly. What may be obvious to an adult or simple common sense to an experienced employee, may not be so clear to a teen doing a task for the first time.

* Adult supervisor is required at all times

* Give clear instruction, explain safety precautions and equipment use

* Ask the teen to repeat your instructions and give an opportunity to ask questions

* Show the teen how to perform a task and watch while he/she does it

* Ask if he/she has any additional questions

* Prepare the teen for emergencies, including fire, power outage and injury

Following these important guidelines will help you to ensure a safe working environment for your young employees while avoiding costly penalties for your business. This is an interpretation of the law intended merely as a guide and not a complete restatement of the law.

Find out more from the state Department of Consumer and Industry Services Bureau of Safety and Regulation, Wage Hour Division at (517) 322-1825, the U.S. Department of Labor Wage Hour Division at (616) 456-2004, or your human resource professional.

Jeannette Lewis is the School to Work/Co-op Coordinator at Petoskey Public Schools and a member of the Petoskey Regional/Harbor Springs Chambers’ Workforce Development Committee. Laura Dinon is a Labor & Employment attorney for Plunkett & Cooney’s Petoskey office. BIZNEWS