Employees under 18 make up a sizable percentage of the workforce in a number of industries like food service, retail, and even web design. Such relationships are often mutually beneficial. The minor-employee can get hands-on workplace experience, while the employer can pay these employees less than an adult.
Employers who hire minors need to be aware of the laws regulating the employment of minors, and should be sure not to run afoul of them, as doing so could cause them to incur fines and be subject to lawsuits. In Illinois, two laws regulate the employment of minors: the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the Illinois Child Labor Law. These laws are similar in nature, although the Child Labor Law only applies to employees under 16, while the FLSA applies to employees under 18.
The Child Labor Law prevents the employment of minors 13 or younger, although there are a number of exceptions to this. For example, 13-year olds can work as golf caddies and can deliver newspapers. 12 and 13 year-olds can work on family farms. Children even younger than 12 years of age can work in movies and certain theatrical productions. The Child Labor Law also prevents children under 16 from performing certain types of jobs, including working in factories or around certain types of machinery, working around certain substances, working in mines, and working in places that sell alcohol.
The Child Labor Law also restricts the amount of hours minors under 16 can work, prohibiting them from working:
- More than 6 consecutive days or 48 hours in a week.
- More than 8 hours in 1 day.
- During the school year between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
- During the summer between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
- More than 3 hours on a school day.
- More than 5 continuous hours without a 30-minute meal period.
An employer must keep an employment certificate on file for any employee under 16. They must also post a summary of the Child Labor Law provided by the Illinois Department of Labor in a conspicuous location in the workplace.
The FLSA imposes many of the same restrictions as the Child Labor Law. It also restricts 17- year-old employees from many types of occupations involving driving and working around certain types of machines engaged in woodcutting.
Penalties for violating the Child Labor Law include fines of up to $5,000 for each violation of the law. Willful violations of the law can lead to Class A misdemeanor charges. Employers can also be subject to civil penalties and lawsuits.
Employers may want to include provisions in their employee handbook that ensure compliance with the Child Labor Law and the provisions in the FLSA governing child labor. They may also want to have a third party audit their employment records to ensure that they are in compliance with the law. Contact me for more information on doing this.