EMPLOYING MINORS IS TRICKIER THAN YOU THINK (aka; Why can’t I get my teen off the couch?!?)

Aaahhhhh, summer! The sun is shining and the birds are singing! In addition to the long days, warm nights and, of course, the repeated dress code reminders for employees, here are a few items for employers to pay attention to during this awesome time of the year.

California requires individuals under 18 years of age to possess a valid work permit even during the summer break unless they met certain requirements (e.g., have graduated high school, passed the GED, etc.). In addition, California employers are also subject to federal law that requires they collect reliable proof of the age of all individuals under 18 years in order to protect themselves against unintentional violations of child labor laws. (Hint: The federal requirement can be satisfied by collecting the top portions of the work permit application.)

As previously blogged here, work permits spell out the specific rules about when and how much the minor is permitted to work. However, there are a bevy of additional rules that employers must abide by if they choose to employ minors. Here are just a few:

California employers with five or more employees are also required to classify all human resources and management personnel who work with and supervise minors (defined as everyone under 18 years old) as “mandated reporters” and are obligated to ensure that these mandated reporters receive both training and notification of their mandated reporter status. Specifically,

  1. Notification – Each mandated reporter, prior to commencing employment and as a prerequisite to employment, must sign a statement on a form provided by the employer to the effect that they have knowledge of the provisions of Section 11166 and will comply with those provisions. The statement must inform the employee that they are a mandated reporter and provide the reporting obligations under Section 11166 and confidentiality rights under Section 11167(d). In addition, the employer must provide a copy of Penal Code sections 11165.7, 11166, and 11167 to the mandated reporter. The employer should retain a copy of the signed documentation.
  2. Training – Here is a link to the “approved,” free 4-hour training provided by California’s Department of Social Services.

Minors are not permitted to work in any industry that is considered hazardous as determined by both state and federal standards. Although California has adopted most federal regulations, in certain occupations California’s rules are more stringent. (If there is a contradiction between the laws, the more protective standard always applies.) As a result, many occupations have restrictions and prohibitions directly tied to the age of the minor. In fact, the rules are so stringent that most employers do not even want to interview minors under 16 (regardless of their GPA!) A few examples (this list is by no means exhaustive) of the rules for minors under 18 include:

  • Minors younger than 18 are not permitted to drive a motor vehicle as the primary or principal purpose of employment and there are even more restrictions in place related to driving for minors younger than 17 such as a prohibition against driving after daylight hours and delivering anything deemed urgent and/or time-sensitive.
  • Minors younger than 18 may work in establishments that sell alcohol if they are constantly supervised by a person 21 or older but they are prohibited from working in any establishment primarily designed and used for the sale, service, and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises.
  • Minors younger than 18 are prohibited from operating many forms of equipment including forklifts, many manufacturing machines, and certain machines used in the baking industry.
  • Minors younger than 18 may not operate power-driven wood working machines, nor can they be employed in demolition operations or the roofing industry.

California’s Labor Commissioner has published a pamphlet titled Child Labor Laws containing detailed information about child labor laws and requirements and the federal regulations can be found in the pamphlet titled Child Labor Requirements in Nonagricultural Occupations and in the Code of Federal Regulations. In short, the rules to employ minors are vast and difficult for employers to navigate safely in order to avoid violating child labor laws. This is likely why so many teens are stuck at home (sprawled on the couch) driving their parents crazy over the summer.

For those of you still dealing with those darn dress code issues, read here on how to make them easier on all concerned.