Getting Ready for Summer – Teens in the Workplace

With summer fast approaching, many employers are planning on bringing young people into the workplace for employment and experience. Depending on your summer plans, there are a few tips you should consider to make sure your young people are properly engaged, prepared and will benefit from the experience.

Ensure youths are properly classified. Employers are required to pay teen employees at least the federal youth minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), unless the worker is covered by a higher state wage rate.

Unfortunately, a young worker’s status is not always clear cut. That’s where employers offering unpaid summer internships need to take care. The U.S. Department of Labor has a six-part test for the use of unpaid interns by private employers:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Review your orientation program. As with all workers you hire, your summer workers will need orientation and safety training. Remember, new workers are at greater risk for accidents because of their inexperience. Training should be age appropriate. New employees should know where to locate safety information and the business’ emergency procedures. Teens may also need extra training on issues like reporting incidents, supervisory authority, and disciplinary actions.

Know what youth can and cannot do. There are many tasks that young workers are not legally allowed to perform.

  • Workers 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not;
  • Workers ages 16 and 17 are prohibited from certain hazardous jobs such as driving on public streets, operating power-driven machinery, or serving alcoholic beverages.
  • Workers 14 and 15 years old may not work in hazardous jobs. Among the jobs they may not perform are those in manufacturing, construction, food processing, and operating landscaping machinery. Also, there are limits on the number of hours and times of day for workers under the age of 16.

State child labor laws may impose stricter requirements on the employment of minors.

Ensure proper supervision. Teens generally need closer supervision than older workers do. Consider reassigning other workers so a supervisor has more time to work with young workers or assigning an older, more experienced worker as a buddy or mentor.

Ensure that young workers get clear feedback on what they are doing right and what they need to improve on. For more information, check out Youth Rules!.

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