For many employers, summer often means an increase in the number of teen workers. While teen workers can be a great asset to an organization, employers must remain aware of applicable local, state and federal laws. Both Ohio law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) contain work restrictions that are intended to protect minors. The restrictions vary based on the age of the minor, whether or not the minor is in school and the type of work in which the minor is involved.
Prohibited or Substantially Restricted Occupations & Activities
- Under both state and federal law, employees under the age of 18 are generally prohibited from working in extremely hazardous occupations, such as chemical manufacturing or roofing. These types of restrictions could apply to nonprofit employers involved in constructing or rehabilitating homes.
- Employees under the age of 16 are prohibited from all manufacturing jobs, working in freezers and meat coolers, working in boiler or engine rooms, loading and unloading delivery trucks and from all warehouse work except for clerical jobs. The loading restrictions could, for example, apply to nonprofit employers managing large quantities of donated items.
- All minors are generally prohibited from operating motor vehicles on public roads and highways or from serving as outside helpers on motor vehicles on public roads. An employer can permit a 17-year-old employee to drive on public roads or highways in the course of work only through the “incidental and occasional” driving exemption incorporated under FLSA. But even this exemption is subject to the additional restrictions under the Drive for Teen Employment Act of 1988 (e.g., driving must be limited to daylight hours and the teen must have a record clear of driving violations).
- Federal and state laws prohibit minors under the age of 16 from engaging in door-to-door sales or solicitation, unless certain very specific conditions are met.
- Federal regulations restrict the type of cooking activities that minors can perform, particularly younger employees. For example, minors under the age of 16 may not cook on a grill that has an open flame, may not use cooking devices that operate at extremely high temperatures and may not clean equipment when the surface is hotter than 100º F. These types of restrictions could apply to meal centers operated by nonprofit organizations.
- Federal law prohibits the employment of minors under the age of 14, with very limited exceptions (i.e., newspaper delivery, certain agricultural enterprises, actors and performers).
Wage, Hour and Break Requirements for Minors
- When not in school, employees under 16 are permitted to work until 9:00 p.m., but they cannot work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week unless employment is incidental to bona fide programs of vocational cooperative training, work-study or other workoriented programs with the purpose of educating students. Such programs must also meet standards established by the state Board of Education.
- For teen workers age 16 or 17, there are no limitations on the starting and ending time for work and no limitation in hours worked per day or week when school is not in session.
- All employees under the age of 18 are required to have a 30-minute break every five hours.
- Under Ohio law, all employers must keep written records that track hours worked, meal periods and wages paid for minors. Employers must keep these records for a period of at least two years.
While local, state, and federal laws related to the hiring of minors tend to be similar, employers should check all three levels of law (i.e., federal, state, and local). In the case of any discrepancy between the laws, employers should follow the most restrictive law.