Use Caution When Hiring Workers Under 18

Copyright 2021

Be careful when hiring teenagers to work for your company after school and during the summer months.

Violating Child Labor Laws

A contractor and the leasing company that supplied its workers were each fined $10,000 for violating child labor laws after a 17-year-old employee was killed in an accident.

The teenager died after a construction trench he was working in collapsed at a Michigan construction site, according to the the U.S. Labor Department.

Employing workers under age 18 in excavation operations is prohibited by the child labor provisions of the FLSA. No one under 18 is allowed to work in a trench deeper than 4 feet. An investigation revealed the teenager was working in an 11 to 13-foot trench when the cave-in occurred.

Two companies were liable for civil fines because the worker was hired by a contractor and paid by a "professional employer organization", which leases workers to other firms and handles payroll, personnel and regulatory compliance issues.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates the employment of children under 18 years of age in certain types of jobs and construction firms must follow certain rules or face costly fines. Here are the basic rules:

  • Children aged 16 and 17 may work in construction related jobs, but they may not be involved in certain "hazardous" occupations at a construction site.

    The Labor Department reports that the most frequent hazardous occupation violations involve children using power driven saws, operating or loading cardboard paper balers, doing delivery driving, or operating fork lift trucks. They also can't be involved in wrecking, demolition, excavation and most roofing operations.

  • The regulations also specify hours that minors under 16 years of age may work but not in hazardous construction jobs.

    Under federal law, 14- and 15-year-olds may work outside school hours, not before 7 a.m. or later than 7 p.m. (9 p.m. from June 1 until Labor Day). They may not work more than three hours on school days or more than 18 hours in school weeks. In addition, they may not work more than eight hours on non-school days, or more than 40 hours during non-school weeks.

Be Aware: Breaking the law can be costly. Fines for child labor and overtime violations can go back to past years on employees who no longer work for companies.