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8 Considerations for Hiring Interns, Minors, and Seasonal Workers

With summer approaching, you may be thinking about hiring interns, minors or seasonal workers. If so, keep in mind that laws governing minimum wage, overtime, nondiscrimination, and child labor generally apply. Here are eight considerations for hiring interns, minors, and/or seasonal workers:

#1: Paying interns.

Unless very narrow tests are satisfied, employers must pay interns. The Department of Labor (DOL) uses a six-part test to determine whether an intern must be paid under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Some states have additional criteria for determining whether interns are entitled to pay. Evaluate each relationship on a case-by-case basis, and when in doubt pay interns at least the minimum wage and overtime. Check your state law to ensure compliance.

#2: Minimum wage and overtime.

Employers must generally pay all non-exempt employees—including minors, paid interns, and seasonal workers—at least the minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime when applicable. However, the FLSA allows employers to pay employees under the age of 20 an "opportunity wage" of $4.25 per hour during the first consecutive 90 calendar days of employment. Note: Some states and local jurisdictions specifically prohibit employers from paying anything less than the minimum wage, so be sure to check applicable laws.

#3: Minimum age requirements.

The FLSA prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from working in hazardous occupations. A list of these occupations can be found at 29 CFR §570.50 through 29 CFR §570.68. Additionally, individuals under the age of 16 are generally excluded from, among other things, manufacturing, mining, machine-tending, transportation, construction, and public utility work. Minors under the age of 17 are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle; however, workers 17 or older may do so when certain criteria are met. Some jurisdictions have additional restrictions, so check your state and local law to ensure compliance.

#4: Work permits.

Many states require minors to have a work permit or working papers before they can begin employment. In states with this requirement, work permits are typically obtained through the minor's school district or the state DOL. Keep work permits on file for each minor hired.

#5: Hours restrictions.

The FLSA and many state laws restrict the hours a minor can work. Under the FLSA, when school is in session, 14- and 15-year-olds can work three hours on a school day or 18 hours in a school week. When school is not in session, they may work up to 40 hours in a week. While there are no federal limits on the hours worked by 16- and 17-year-old workers, some states impose such restrictions.

#6: New hire paperwork.

Employers must complete certain new hire paperwork for all new hires. This includes:

  • Form I-9. Employers must complete and retain a Form I-9 to verify that the individual is authorized to work in the United States.
  • Form W-4. A Form W-4 must be completed to determine the amount of income tax to withhold from the employee’s wages.
  • Notice of Coverage Options. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all employers (regardless of whether they offer health insurance) must provide a Notice of Coverage Options to all new hires.
  • State forms. Many states also require employers to provide specific notices to new employees at the time of hire.

#7: Meal and rest breaks.

Many states have specific meal and rest break laws. Even if your state does not require you to provide breaks to other employees, you may be required to provide them to minors. States with special meal and rest break rules for minors include, but are not limited to, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

#8: Discrimination and harassment protections.

Nondiscrimination laws prohibit employers from discriminating or harassing applicants and employees. These laws also protect paid interns, minors, and seasonal workers. Some jurisdictions have extended these protections to unpaid interns as well. Enforce your nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies consistently and promptly investigate all complaints.

Conclusion:

If you are hiring interns, minors, or seasonal workers this summer, plan ahead and comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws.

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