It’s not too late to train youth employed in summer jobs about workplace policies, something employers too often fail to do, according to Jay Zweig, an attorney with Bryan Cave in Phoenix. Training of youth and managers is particularly needed about sexual harassment, workplace safety and hourly restrictions.
Sexual harassment is one of the biggest areas of complaint with all employees, Zweig noted. When youth haven’t been in the workplace before, they might not know how to behave appropriately with co-workers in that setting.
The supervision of youth by adults creates another potential for harassment. Youth need to know how to report inappropriate behavior toward them, he said.
“Teens are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment,” agreed Jonathan Yarbrough, an attorney with Constangy, Brooks & Smith in Asheville, N.C. “They don’t know their workplace rights. They often don’t know how to complain or what to do if harassed. They can cause the harassment themselves—for example, sexting. Teens often don’t have the tools to address workplace conflict. Employers should conduct training in a way that teens understand.
Employers have to remember that teens communicate differently than adults and tailor presentations accordingly.”
Sexual harassment training is important not only to make sure teens report when someone has been acting inappropriately with them or to prevent them from acting inappropriately with co-workers, but also to prevent them from acting inappropriately with customers, noted George Voegele Jr., an attorney with Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia.
Another frequent oversight is failing to train seasonally employed youth how to use equipment. There is a heightened risk of injury with young workers who are not adequately familiar with work processes or machines, are not trained properly, or have inadequate supervision, Voegele remarked.
Also, employers should ensure that they are complying with child labor protections in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and under state law, he told SHRM Online.
The FLSA sets limits on the types of work youth may perform. Workers age 13 and younger cannot take most jobs but may deliver newspapers, babysit, act and work in a business owned only by their parents, among other exceptions. Once youth are 14 or 15 years old, they can work in offices, grocery stores, retail establishments, movie theaters and amusement parks, among other jobs, but they are prohibited from taking on construction, mining, manufacturing, warehousing, door-to-door sales, storage and public utilities jobs, Voegele noted.
Once youth turn 16, they still are not supposed to work in the manufacturing of explosives, mining, meat packing, meat processing, roofing or excavating or jobs that require operation of heavy machinery. Once they turn 18, those restrictions are gone, he observed.
Some states have stricter rules. For example, Yarbrough said, in North Carolina there are nine occupations that youth under age 18 cannot work in with certain exceptions. These include welding, brazing and torch cutting, working as an electrician or electrician’s helper, and working in occupations that require the use of a respirator or in operations involving exposure to benzene, among others. “Basically, everything fun,” Yarbrough joked.
Zweig recommended that employers pay particular attention to duties that might require adult supervision, such as counting money at the end of the workday, closing a store at night and locking up. “There needs to be adult supervision” in such circumstances, he said.
Under the FLSA, children who are 14 or 15 years old can work during the summer between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. During the school year, they are allowed to work only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for a maximum of three hours a day or 18 hours a school week. During school vacations, 14- and 15-year-olds may work for eight hours a day and 40 hours a week, Voegele remarked.
There are, by contrast, no hour restrictions for workers age 16 and older.
Having teens work more hours than the legal limits is one of the most common mistakes employers make when employing youth during the summer, according to Yarbrough.
Failing to pay overtime owed to youth is another common mistake, Voegele added.
Employers should consider how they will deal with parents who call in sick days for their children, who want to observe what their children are doing at work or who complain about how their children are doing at work. For workers under age 18, Zweig recommends that employers have the parents sign a statement that clarifies what the job responsibilities of the youth are and notes that employment is at will.
Voegele said that he would have parents sign this type of statement for those who are 15 years old and younger, but he would draw a line for anyone 16 or older. Once a child turns 16, there are fewer restrictions on what he or she can do, he noted.
For those who are younger, he said, an employer would want the parents’ knowledge and acquiescence to the types of work the youth will be doing. But once youth are at the age where virtually everyone has a summer job, getting statements like this from parents won’t be feasible, he concluded.
Allen Smith, J.D., is SHRM’s manager of workplace law content. To read the original article, please click here.