School Is Back in Session: Pay Attention to Labor Laws

The start of September marks the beginning of a brand-new school year. With the start of school, employers have to adjust how they schedule workers under the age of 18 in order to comply with labor laws. If you are a business owner or employee manager, now is the time to review federal and state labor laws to make sure your company remains in compliance.

BenefitMall, a Dallas-based payroll and benefits administration provider, says this time of year can be especially challenging for the restaurant and retail industries. They are the primary employers of younger workers still in school. They recommend working with an experienced accountant or payroll provider to make sure labor laws are observed. BenefitMall offers specialized payroll solution for the restaurant industry, by the way.

Employee Pay under the FLSA

Employers are required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to pay minor workers at least the minimum wage for regular hours worked and time-and-a-half for all hours worked in excess of 40. Overtime pay is generally not an issue once school is back in session. That’s because federal law does not allow such long hours during the school year. More on that in the next section.

As for minimum age, employers have to consider both federal and state requirements. The federal minimum-wage for workers under the age of 20 is at least $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of consecutive employment. Several states require higher wages.

There are some exceptions to the federal and state minimum wage. For example, jobs like newspaper delivery, casual babysitting, and agriculture employment are exempt from FLSA regulations. Student workers can be paid significantly less for these kinds of activities.

Working Hours under the FLSA

While state regulations may differ in terms of working hours, federal law is fairly straightforward and is designed to protect younger workers. Workers under 16 years of age (14 and 15) cannot work during school hours when school is in session. Furthermore, they are limited to three hours of work per day and a maximum of 18 working hours per week. Agricultural work is the one exception. Children may work in agricultural operations for their parents during school hours, and with no limit on the number of hours worked.

Federal law does not limit the number of hours that can be worked by those 16 years old and older. Nor does it regulate working during school hours. However, some states do. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York are three examples of states that have time and hour limits for all employees under the age of 18.

Time Tracking Requirements

BenefitMall reminds employers that they are still required under the FLSA to accurately track working hours of school-age children, both during the summer and while school is in session. They are not allowed to pay ‘under the table’, except under casual employment arrangements in which a worker operates as an independent contractor. Casual babysitting would be a good example.

Labor laws regulating child labor are in place to protect the rights and well-being of minors. Employers should understand that federal and state agencies are serious about enforcing child labor laws to the fullest extent possible. They do not look kindly on companies that overwork or underpay their minor employees.

If you are involved in the restaurant or retail sectors, the start of the school year probably makes scheduling a bit more difficult for you. This is the time of year when we all have to get back into a new groove that accommodates school being in session.