Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify periods which interfere with the minor's schooling.
Employers considering employing students over the summer months should review what job functions minors are permitted and prohibited from performing.
Child labor regulations
HR Services often receives questions regarding allowable occupations and age restrictions for student workers. Federal regulations for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are very specific and require employers to ensure the safety of minors.
The FLSA prohibits employers from employing minors during periods which interfere with the minor’s schooling or under conditions which interfere with the minor’s health and well-being. To not "interfere", the work has to occur outside of school hours. Outside school hours is defined as periods before and after school hours, holidays, summer vacations, weekends, and any other day or part of a day when the student's local school is not in session. Summer school is considered outside of school hours.
In limited situations, a school may employ a minor during the noon hour or during a period when the student has no class (e.g., tutor, cafeteria helper). Other exceptions apply when a minor has a child to support or is enrolled in a work experience and career exploration program or school-administered work-study program.
Prohibited occupations that are deemed particularly hazardous to children are listed by age under the FLSA’s child labor provisions. Despite the exhaustive list of prohibited tasks, minors age 14 to 17 typically can do many common jobs found in schools.
A comprehensive treatment of child labor restrictions is included in The Administrator’s Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act. A summary is provided below.
Minors 14 and 15 years old
During the summer vacation, minors age 14 and 15 years old may work the following:
- Between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. June 1 through Labor Day
- No more than eight hours per day
- No more than 40 hours per week
Minors 14 and 15 years old may work in any non-agricultural occupation not deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Some allowable occupations include the following:
- Office and clerical work, including the use of office machines
- Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, and public transportation but not by operating a motor vehicle
- Custodian work, including the use of vacuum cleaners and floor-waxing machines
- Grounds maintenance work, excluding the use of power-driven mowers and cutters
- Operating light, non-power-driven hand tools including rakes, hand-held clippers, shovels, and brooms, and excluding lawn mowers or other power-driven lawn maintenance equipment
- Kitchen work involved in preparing and serving food and beverages, including the operation of dishwashers, toasters, dumb waiter, popcorn poppers, milk shake blenders, coffee grinders, automatic coffee machines, and food warmers used only to warm prepared food with a capacity not to exceed 140°F
Examples of prohibited functions include:
- Operating, tending, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing any power-driven machinery, including lawnmowers, golf carts, all-terrain vehicles, trimmers, cutters, weedeaters, edgers, food slicers, food grinders, food choppers, food processors, food cutters, and food mixers (exceptions include: office machines, vacuum cleaners, floor waxers, and kitchen equipment identified in section above)
- Operating a motor vehicle, or serving as a helper on the vehicle assisting in transporting or delivering goods
- Loading and unloading goods to and from motor vehicles, railroad cars, or conveyors
- Transporting persons or property
- Working in warehouses or storage facilities, except in a clerical capacity or sales work
- Outside window washing that involves working from the window or the use of ladders, scaffolds, or substitutes
Minors 16 and 17 years old
Students that are 16 and 17 can be employed in any non-hazardous job with specific limitations. Some of these limitations include:
- Operating circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting disks
- Operating or assisting in operating (including setting up, adjusting, or cleaning) power-driven paper product machines, such as an arm type wire stitcher or stapler, guillotine-style paper cutter, envelope die-cutting press, scrap-paper baler, vertical slotter, or paper box compactor;
- Wrecking and demolition
- Operating power-driven woodworking machines (including helping an operator feed material to such machines)
- Driving a motor vehicle, including a golf cart or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or working as an outside helper on a motor vehicle (except for 17-year-olds as noted in this DOL Fact Sheet)
Hiring process and paperwork
For the most part, hiring student workers over the summer requires following the district’s typical protocols for hiring non-students. Any required documents, such as those found in the HR Library’s New Hire Document Checklist (my TASB login required), should be filled out and kept on file. Since the majority of those being hired will be under 18, obtaining the typical criminal history record information (CHRI) from the Texas Department of Public Safety will not usually be necessary.
A mutual benefit
Summer student workers can fill the gaps and voids districts may be experiencing due to hiring difficulties. The benefits for students include being able to earn money while gaining experience and building pride in their district. Whether jobs entail moving furniture, power washing exterior facilities, prepping new computers, cleaning computers, loading software, or general clerical work, the payout will likely be worth the payback for both parties.
Keith McLemore is an HR & compensation consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Keith an email at email@example.com.
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