Murray Feldman: Know The Rules Concerning Teen Employment

(WWJ) – A low statewide unemployment rate will have many Michigan employers looking to bolster their ranks with teen workers this summer, especially in the retail and service industries.

And, as WWJ’s Business Editor Murray Feldman talks about in today’s Feldman Report, Michigan employers and parents should know the rules when teen workers are hired for the summer.

Historically, Michigan teens have participated in the labor force at a rate much higher than the national average, and although  summer employment can start them on a lifelong path of good work habits and solid financial footing, it is important that both employers and parents understand and follow the legal/safety considerations for teen workers set forth in the Michigan Youth Employment Standards Act, according to Nick Huguelet, an attorney at Detroit-based management-side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, P.C.

“There are state laws governing the hours minors (teens under age 18) can work, permit requirements, limits on accessibility to alcohol, use of motorized equipment and handling cash in the evening, just to name a few,” Huguelet said.  “In general, they are common sense rules that help keep teens safe at work while also protecting employers from potential liability.”

Huguelet offers a quick rundown of key guidelines for teen workers:

  • work permit is required for minors and can be obtained through the child’s school.  There are two permits depending on the age of the minor.
  • In the summer, minors aged 16-17 may work between 6 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.  During the school year, minors aged 16-17 may only work between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. except on Fridays and Saturdays (or during school vacation periods), when they can work until 11:30 p.m.
  • Minors under 16 years of age may only be employed between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Minors can’t handle cash after 8 p.m. or sunset (whichever is earlier) unless there is another employee present who is at least 18.
  • Minors can’t sell or serve alcoholic beverages, but a minor over the age of 16 (or age 14 in a retail setting) can work where alcohol is being sold if alcohol doesn’t exceed 50 percent of sales.
  • Employers must ensure that a minor is provided with at least one 30-minute meal or rest period for every five hours of continuous work.
  • The Michigan Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (minimum wage law) allows employers to pay minors 85 percent of the established minimum wage.  This means the minimum wage for minors is currently $7.57 (85 percent of $8.90).
  • Teens under the age of 20 may be paid a “training hourly wage” of $4.25 for the first 90 days of employment.
  • Teens working in amusement or recreational establishments are not entitled to overtime pay if the establishment does not operate for more than seven months in a calendar year.
  • Summer camp employees are exempt from Michigan’s minimum wage and overtime requirements as long as they are employed for four months or less.
  • Individuals must be at least 18 to operate power-driven equipment such as meat slicers, mixers, saws and motor vehicles, including OSHA and MIOSHA regulated equipment such as forklifts.

Summer also creates employment opportunities for tweens and younger teens to work in a family business because immediate family members are exempt from minimum age laws when their parents own the business. There are also exceptions for minors working in farming.  Caddying is considered a safe job and minors as young as 11 are legally allowed to be caddies, but some golf course jobs, such as mowing the greens with huge tractors or retrieving golf balls in a motorized vehicle, can and do result in serious injury or death and individuals must be 18 and trained to perform those jobs.

For more information governing teenage workers, visit www.michigan.gov.

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