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Know the Law: Federal Rules for Youth Workers

Written by: Jacqueline A. Botchman

Published in the Union Leader (5/21/2018)

Q. I read your Know the Law Column from April 22, 2018 about hiring employee young workers, like Bill, under New Hampshire Labor Laws. I was really curious about how the federal law intersects with this.

A. Federal and state governments adopt youth labor laws to protect minors, like Bill, from working excessive hours, operating hazardous machinery, and working in dangerous situations. The U.S. Department of Labor publishes a comprehensive list of occupations considered dangerous at certain ages. A business is covered by federal wage and hour law, the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”), if its annual sales total $500,000 or more or if it is engaged in interstate commerce.

Under the FLSA, you must monitor Bills working hours as follows:

  • If Bill is 12 or 13 years old, unlike the New Hampshire Labor Law, Bill may not be employed if the business is covered by the FLSA. Permissible employment is limited to certain agricultural work and work that is exempt from the FLSA, such as delivering newspapers, acting, and certain types of small business that operate outside of interstate commerce. Additionally, both federal and state law allow for volunteers at non-profits starting at age 12.
  • If Bill is 14 or 15 years old, he may be employed outside school hours in a variety of jobs for limited periods of time. He cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays; no more than 8 hours on a non-school day; no more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session; no more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session; and he can only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except between June 1 and Labor day when the evening hour is extended to 9p.m. for the summer.
  • If Bill is between 16 and 17 years old, under the FLSA, he may be employed for unlimited hours in any occupation other than those declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor under the FLSA. Employers must still follow New Hampshire law, which does restrict the number of hours a minor can work.
  • Once Bill turns 18 he is no longer subject to the state or federal child labor laws.

Although the FLSA would not require Bill to obtain "working papers,” restrict the number of hours or times of day that he would work, if he were 16 years of age and older, or regulate or require such things as breaks, meal periods, or fringe benefits, New Hampshire laws do.

Before hiring Bill, you must understand the occupational and hourly restrictions to ensure that your business is in compliance with youth employment laws. When the two laws conflict, follow the law which is most protective to the minor.  Note, this does not directly address state law.

Jacqueline Botchman can be reached at [email protected].

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton, Professional Association.   We invite your questions of business law.  Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to:  McLane Middleton, 900 Elm Street, Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to [email protected].  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.

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