By Beth Milito
School’s winding down, and a lot of high-school students will try to get a summer job.
Summer jobs are good for students. They pay real money, which can come in handy, and a lot of businesses have employee discounts, which are a great way to stretch a dollar.
Working over summer break has other benefits, too. Summer jobs can help build confidence and character, teach responsibility and give students real-world experience that college admissions officers and future employers may appreciate. Summer jobs can give students a better idea of what they do – or don’t – want to pursue as a career.
But there are some important things you as a parent should know about your student’s job opportunities (employers should be aware of these, too):
1. The rules apply to them. Just because they’re in school doesn’t mean employers can take advantage of them. Minors are entitled to the same minimum wage, overtime, and safety and health protections as adults. When it comes to work, the federal wage and hour law, officially known as the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, applies to everyone, regardless of age. Other federal and state workplace laws apply to them, too.
2. Students 13 and younger have limited options when it comes to summer jobs. Federal law says they’re too young for most non-farming jobs, such as working in a store or restaurant, but there are still jobs they can do. They’re allowed to babysit and perform minor chores around a private home, and if you own a business, they’re allowed to work for you.
3. If they’re 14 or 15, their prospects are better. Students in this age bracket are allowed to perform jobs such as bagging groceries, waiting tables and working in an office, but they can’t use power-driven machinery, such as lawn mowers, lawn trimmers, and weed cutters. They also aren’t allowed to work more than 40 hours a week.
4. If they’re 16 or 17, they’re allowed to work up a sweat and earn serious money. There’s no limit to the number of hours 16- and 17-year-olds can work, and they’re allowed to work basically any job that isn’t declared hazardous, provided all other Fair Labor Standards Act requirements are met.
5. If they’re 18 or older, legally, they’re adults. It doesn’t matter that they’re still in school. In the eyes of the law, they’re grown up, and that means they can do pretty much any job for which they’re qualified.
Finally, remember that state laws may offer teens additional protections, so it’s important to check with your state department of labor for guidance on state restrictions.
Beth Milito is senior executive counsel with the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center in Washington, D.C.