Hiring teens can present challenges

Monday, June 11, 2012
Lifeguard Jackie Crawford, 15, keeps watch Saturday over Cape Splash. (ADAM VOGLER)

For many teens a summer job is a chance to earn extra money, but hiring teens comes with extra responsibilities for employers.

Fourteen- and 15-year-olds can be hired for office work, retail, maintenance, food delivery and vehicle cleaning services if they have a work certificate, according to the Missouri Department of Labor.

Last month, an Independence, Mo., grocery store was penalized for employing two children under 14 without having work certificates on file for them. Hy-Vee Inc. was also in violation of the state's child labor law for failing to have a posted list of child employees and not maintaining personnel files on the children.

Work certificates, even for summer jobs, must be approved by the school district where the child is enrolled. Both the student and the employer must sign them and the employer must specify the days and hours the student will work.

Jackson had about 10 students bring in certificates during the past school year. The district usually signs two or three more during the summer, said Dr. Ron Anderson, superintendent of the district.

Bridget Trepasso, 15, works the register Saturday at Cape Splash. (ADAM VOGLER)

During the last fiscal year, the Missouri Department of Labor reviewed 2,079 work certificates for workers under 16.

Even with a work certificate, there are some jobs those under 16 are not allowed to do.

"A younger worker in a grocery store would not be allowed to operate a meat grinder or climb on a ladder to stock the top shelves or drive a forklift in the back of the store," said Mitch Volkart, assistant director of the Missouri Department of Labor's Division of Labor Standards in a podcast posted on the department's website.

Those under 16 are also prohibited from doing door-to-door sales unless they are as part of a church, school or Scouting group; they are also prohibited from operating equipment and machinery, mining and stonecutting, handling explosives, driving a motor vehicle, working in metal producing industries and sawmills, working with radioactive substances or in establishments where alcoholic beverages are manufactured, bottled or sold unless 50 percent of the workplace sales are generated from other goods.

There are some jobs the Department of Labor calls "casual jobs" that children over age 12 may do without obtaining a work certificate as long as they have their parents' permission.

"There are certain occupations that a child may do that are excluded from the definition of employment. That includes running newspaper routes, baby-sitting and occasional yard work in domestic settings," Volkart said during a recent Labor Department podcast.

Coaching and refereeing also do not require a work certificate.

Penny Williams, recreation division manager at the Cape Girardeau Parks Department, said she is familiar with teens labor regulations because the department often hires 15-year-olds as concession stand workers or score keepers.

"Typically, we don't like to hire them any younger than 15-and-a-half, and they do have to get work certificates," Williams said. "We want kids who are active and understand these sports, so it's worth it to us. For example, we want people who play baseball to be our scorekeepers."

Hiring teens does have its challenges, though, Williams said. State law limits the hours those under age 16 can work to no later than 7 p.m. during the school year and 9 p.m. in the summer. Those under 16 who are working at fairs or festivals may work until 10:30 p.m.

"Sometimes it's difficult for us to have somebody that has to leave work at 7 p.m. when we won't be done until 9 or 9:30 p.m.," Williams said. In that situation, an older employee must be brought in for the final two hours.

Lifeguard Hanna Bagot, 17, watches as kids go down a water-slide Saturday at Cape Splash.

However, the parks department offers a lot of opportunities for young people to learn on the job, Williams said.

"For a lot of them, this is their first full-time job, so we are a training ground," she said.

Missouri law doesn't require employers to provide employees, including teen workers, with a break of any kind. There are no special wage provisions for teen workers under state law, either. Most employers must pay employees, including teens, at least the state minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. Tipped employees, such as waitresses, must be paid at least half the state minimum wage. Employers in the retail or service business whose annual gross income is less than $500,000 are not required to pay the state minimum wage rate to any workers, regardless of their age.

For more information on laws pertaining to teen workers, visit labor.mo.gov/DLS/YouthEmployment.



Pertinent address:

1656 N. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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