Guide to Hiring Minors: What You Need to Know
Summer is quickly approaching, and many employers need seasonal employment help and turn to high schoolers to fill these positions. This can be an integral component to an organization’s hiring plan and can be a great opportunity for teenagers to gain valuable work experience and important skills.
For employers hiring summer help, it is important to understand the regulations relating to the employment of minors and the provisions designed to protect young workers by restricting the types of jobs/tasks that they can do and the number of hours they are able to work. It is essential to follow all federal, state, and local laws regarding the employment of minors.
If you are a healthcare, senior living, or social services organization, discover additional guidance for your industry.
Federal Versus Wisconsin Employment of Minors
The U.S. Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the minimum age for most employment at 14. It also limits the number of hours worked by minors under the age of 16 and prohibits minors under the age of 18 from working in hazardous occupations.
In addition to the federal standards, employers in Wisconsin must comply with Wisconsin’s child labor laws. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), regulates the employment of workers younger than 18 years of age. When Wisconsin’s child labor laws and the (FLSA) child labor provisions overlap, the law providing the most protection to minors will prevail (which is usually the state).
Child labor laws are a crucial aspect of labor regulations aimed to protect employees who are under the age of 18. The following are designed to ensure that children are not subject to exploitative or hazardous working conditions:
- Requiring employees under the age of 16 to have a permit to perform work;
- Limiting the age at which minors are allowed to work;
- Limiting the hours minors are allowed to work; and
- Prohibiting hazardous occupations
The article below provides employers with high-level guidance of federal and state regulations relating to the employment of minors to promote positive and safe work experiences.
Hour Restrictions and Meal Periods
The overarching goal of hour restrictions and meal breaks for minors is to prevent prolonged periods of continuous work without adequate breaks. It’s important to be sure young employees can strike a balance between the demands of the job and the need for nutrition and rest.
Minors are permitted to work a maximum of 6-days a week; however, minors working in agricultural occupations may work 7-days a week. From June 1st to Labor Day, during the typical “summer break”, minors under the age of 16 may work at most 40-hours in a week and their work must be done between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Child labor laws often include provisions regarding meal breaks to ensure that young employees have sufficient time to rest, rejuvenate, and eat during their working hours. As an employer, be sure to provide designated meal periods that are reasonability close to the usual meal period time (example: 6 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 6 p.m., 12:00 a.m.) Minors must be allowed at least a 30-minute break for each meal period and they can’t work more than six consecutive hours without a meal period. These meal breaks are designed to prioritize the well-being, heath, and nutrition of underage employees.
Rules for Workers Under 14-Years of Age
The Department of Labor’s YouthRules! Initiative was implemented to promote a positive and safe work experience for teens. Here are age specific workforce regulations, as outlined in the YouthRules! Initiative:
Workers who are under 14 years of age are only permitted to do the following jobs:
- Deliver newspapers to customers
- Babysit on a casual basis
- Work as an actor or actress in movies, TV, radio or theater
- Work as a homeworker gathering evergreens or making evergreen wreaths
- Work for a business owned entirely by their parents as long as it is not in mining, manufacturing or any of the 17 hazardous occupations
However, there are different rules in place for minors in this age group who work in agriculture. States also have specific rules for youth workers under 14 years old – and employers must follow both.
Rules for Workers 14 to 15 Years of Age
Youth workers who are 14 to 15 years of age are only permitted to do certain jobs, which include:
- Work an approved retail position
- Work an intellectual or creative position, such as computer programming, teaching, tutoring, singing, acting or playing an instrument
- Run errands or complete delivery work by foot, bicycle and public transportation
- Complete cleanup and yard work that does not include using power-driven mowers, cutters, trimmers, edgers or similar equipment
- Work in connection with cars and trucks, such as dispensing gasoline or oil and washing or hand polishing
- Work in a kitchen or the food service industry reheating food, washing dishes, cleaning equipment or doing some limited cooking
- Clean vegetables and fruits, wrap, seal, label, weigh pricing and stock items as long as these tasks are performed in areas separate from a freezer or meat cooler
- Load or unload objects for use at a worksite including rakes, hand-held clippers and shovels
Additionally, 14 and 15-year-olds who meet certain requirements can perform limited tasks in sawmills and woodshops, and 15-year-olds who meet certain requirements can perform lifeguard duties at traditional swimming pools and water parks.
Rules for Workers 16 to 17 Years of Age
At this time, there are no federal or Wisconsin state rules limiting the hours 16 and 17-years old may work; however, when working over 40-hours a week, a minor is entitled to overtime pay (time and one-half).
Minor Employment/Equipment Tasks and Restricted Tasks
Operating Power-Driven Machinery (lawn and garden tasks)
Minors age 16 and over are permitted to operate lawn and garden equipment and weed string (not-bladed) trimmers. Minors 14 & 15 years old are not permitted to operate any power-driven machinery. These safety parameters are in place to prevent accidents, injuries, and long-term health consequences that can arise from engaging in this type of work at a young age.
More specifically, 14- and 15-year-olds are not allowed to be operating, tending, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing of ANY POWER-DRIVEN MACHINERY, including but not limited to:
- Lawnmowers, golf carts, all-terrain vehicles, weed-eaters, trimmers, cutters, edgers, food slicers, food grinders, food choppers, food processors, food cutters and food mixers.
Child labor laws generally restrict individuals under the age of 18 to engage in certain types of work, and this often includes limitations on driving-related tasks.
- Minors are restricted from driving an automobile, truck, or bus, or transporting passengers.
- Minors are prohibited from being a delivery driver. However, Incidental and occasional driving by minors who are at least 17-years of age is permitted.
For Example: Minors are allowed to make two or less trips from the primary place of employment in any single day for the purpose of delivering goods to a customer.
Minors are also restricted to driving during daylight hours, within a 30-mile radius of the place of employment. The vehicle may not exceed 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW). To operate a vehicle during daylight hours, the minor needs to have completed a state approved course and hold a state license in the job that he or she performs. Additionally, the minor must have a clean record of any moving violations at the time of hire, along with to having a seat belt for each passenger.
Regulations for housekeeping tasks aim to set limits on the nature and intensity of the work minors may have to undertake as part of their employment. If you hire a minor to complete housekeeping tasks, be sure you are aware of the following:
- Minors MAY use light power-driven machinery (i.e.- vacuum cleaner)
- Janitorial cleaning is permitted
- An employee must be 16-years of age or older to operate floor polishers and scrubbers
- Minors under 18-years of age are PROHIBITED from loading, operating, and unloading balers, and compactors used in waste disposal and recycling tasks
Kitchen and Power-Driven Bakery Equipment
Do you employ minors who are around the kitchen? Child labor laws have a lot of restrictions and regulations surrounding the use of kitchen and baking equipment, due to safety concerns:
- Employees must be 16-years of age or older and have direct adult supervision to work in cooking positions
- Minors 14-years of age and older MAY use the following equipment IF preparing and serving food and beverages with adult supervision:
- Dishwashers, toasters, dumbwaiters, microwaves, popcorn poppers, blenders, automatic coffee machines, and devices used to maintain the temperature of prepared foods such as warmers, steam tables and heat lamps
- Minors MAY NOT:
- Operate, disassemble, reassemble, clean, or handle disassembled parts of a meat slicer or other meat processing equipment
- Set-up, operate, clean, repair/oil, or adjust or disassemble power-driven bakery machines including mixers, sheeters, band saws or other related equipment
- Operate power-driven dough mixers (i.e., those used in making bread and rolls)
Minors under age 16 years of age are prohibited from working on a ladder, scaffolding or similar device more than 6-feet high due to safety concerns.
Minors 15-years of age and under MAY NOT be employed in “manufacturing, mining, or processing occupations”. This includes occupations that require the performance of any duties in workrooms or workplaces where goods are manufactured, mined or otherwise processed DWD 270.13 (13).
Confined spaces are prohibited for all minors. Minors MAY NOT be assigned tasks in a work environment which has limited openings for entry and exists or escape areas. Examples of prohibited confined spaces include tunnels, boilers, ventilation, and exhaust ducts.
Manufacturing & Construction Equipment & Wisconsin’s Employment of Minors
In certain instances, minors may use equipment in the manufacturing and construction space when they are classified as a “student-learner”. The Department of Workforce Development provides a further breakdown.
Workers’ Compensation Considerations
When a minor becomes an employee of an organization, they must be covered by the employers’ worker’s compensation coverage. See DWD’s Worker’s Compensation page for further information.
Strict Penalties for Non-Compliance
- Double Compensation: When a minor is injured, primary worker’s compensation is due. IF the minor is employed in legal (non-hazardous) employment, BUT without a work permit or YA ETA, the employer must match the primary compensation, and pay this amount to the Work Injury Supplemental Benefit Fund (WISBF). This is sometimes referred to as double compensation.
- Treble Compensation: Where primary worker’s compensation is due AND the minor is employed in a prohibited (hazardous) occupation, the employer may be required to double the primary compensation and pay this amount to the Work Injury Supplemental Benefit Fund (WISBF). This is referred to as treble compensation.
- Primary compensation is normally paid by the insurance company. The extra compensation is primarily the responsibility of the employer.
Supervisors and Leadership
Train AND Practice Safety – Knowing the Law is Not Enough
As a front-line supervisor responsible for assigning jobs to teens, it is crucial for you to be well-informed about the applicable laws regarding their employment. You are in the best position to guide and shape the work behaviors and attitudes of these young workers. Simply having knowledge about the laws is not sufficient; it’s important to actively reinforce proper and safe work procedures.
Train Teens to Put Safety First:
Leadership should ensure that minors receive clear instructions for each task – especially unfamiliar ones. A solution could be to provide hands-on training on the correct use of tools and equipment. The training should demonstrate what safety precautions to take during their specific tasks. Make sure to allow time for questions!
Below are additional ways to ensure teens continue to have safety top of mind!
- Observe and retrain regularly, especially if there is an update to a procedure
- Encourage communication about potential issues or unclear directions and encourage them to speak up
- Supply personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed – safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection, safety shoes – Be sure teens know how to properly use, obtain, and discard PPE
- Reinforce the importance of reporting all work-related incidents and injuries immediately
- Prepare teens for emergencies (accidents, fire, severe weather, workplace violence, etc.) and show them escape route, and explain where to go and your preparedness plan
With summer approaching, numerous employers are seeking seasonal help from high school students. Hiring minors presents an excellent opportunity for these young individuals to grow and acquire valuable skills. However, it’s important to remember that regulations and provisions exist for the safety and well-being of young workers. It’s the employers’ responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. For further guidance on hiring minors, reach out to your M3 account executive or risk manager.
Sources & Resources
- Wisconsin Employment of Minors Guide
- Guide to Wisconsin’s Employment of Minors Laws
- DOL Wage & Hour Division
*Includes resources and considerations on teenagers 14+ and a self-assessment tool
- DOL- State Child Labor Standards
*Includes a chart showing maximum daily/weekly hours/days per week for minors by age. Moreover, be mindful of the hour restrictions and OT considerations per Admin. Code DWD 270.11 (1)(c)5.