Getting "Schooled" on Youth Employment

Alas, for many students in North Carolina, school has returned.  As many of these students look for part-time jobs to pay for their off-campus lunches and date nights at the movies, many employers will be looking to take advantage of their spare time and eagerness to work.  Before hiring an employee under the age of 18, I recommend refreshing yourself on North Carolina's law regarding youth employment.  Lucky for you, this blog post is just the refresher I am talking about!

In addition to your Form I-9, W-2, and NC-4, make sure youth employees have a Youth Employment Certificate:

Employees who are under the age of 18 generally need a youth employment certificate, also called a YEC by the N.C. Department of Labor.  YEC's are obtained by the employee through the N.C. Department of Labor and can be found here.  

Youth Employment in General:

For all youth employees, during the school term employers cannot employee students in 12th grade or lower between the hours of 11pm and 5am when the following day is a school day.  If the employee is 16 or 17 years old, they may be able to work during this time if their parent/guardian AND the school principal give written permission.  Keep in mind that if the employee is 18 years old, they are not covered under this statute. 

All youth employees must be given a 30 minute break after every 5 consecutive hours of work.  Any break period that is less than 30 minutes is NOT considered a continuous workday interruption, which is important for the calculation of hours worked and overtime. 

Employees: Ages 14 & 15

If the employee is 14 or 15 years old, they can only be employed in jobs approved by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Some of the approved jobs include:  cooking, office/clerical, cashiering, cleanup, lifeguarding, car cleaning, etc.  Some of the unapproved jobs include manufacturing, mining, and transportation.   A full list of approved and unapproved occupations under the FLSA can be found here.  It is also important to note that both the U.S. and N.C. Departments of Labor prohibit the employment of people under the age of 18 in "hazardous" jobs (a.k.a. no coal mining for America's youths).  

In addition to restrictions on the type of job, employees 14 or 15 years of age also have restrictions as to when they can work.  Under North Carolina law,  when school is in session, 14 and 15 year old employees can only work up to 3 hours per day, between the hours of 7am and 7pm, and a maximum of 18 hours per week.  When school is not in session, 14 and 15 year olds can work up to 8 hours per day, between the hours of 7am and 7pm, and a maximum of 40 hours in a workweek.  During the summer months when school is not in session, 14 and 15 year olds can work until 9pm.  Regardless, all employment must be outside school hours (meaning you cannot expect a student to work during his or her lunch hour or expect them to skip class to pick up extra shifts).  

Employees: Ages 12 & 13

Employees who are under the age of 14 can only work in the distribution of newspapers to consumers for a maximum of 3 hours per day.  Children under 12 are not permitted to be employed at all.  

Special Circumstances:

Waivers:   For employees who are at least 13 years old, they may seek a waiver to the above restrictions by submitting a letter from a qualified official stating the waiver sought is in the child's best interests, evidence that the health and safety of the child will not be materially affected by the waiver, and written consent from the child's parent or guardian.  

Performing Arts; Parental Employment:   If a youth is employed for dramatic production purposes (think: lighting tech, costume design, stage prep, etc), then he or she is exempt from all the above except for the YEC certificate.  The same is true for models, actors, and performers and children employed by their parents.  

Drivers:   If a youth is at least 16 years old and has a valid North Carolina drivers license, they may be employed in a job that requires the operation of a motor vehicle.  However, the vehicle cannot exceed 6,000 pounds and all driving must be contained to a 25-mile radius around the place of employment.  

Some of these regulations can be tricky from an HR perspective so we encourage anyone who employees local teens to review the laws and reach out to an attorney or consultant when they need help.  Civil penalties for violations can range from $500 to $1,000 PER VIOLATION so be knowledgable and be prepared.  If you want to know how bad it can get, just ask these guys. #themoreyouknow.