Teen Workplace Laws

A survey of teenage workers found numerous violations of federal laws, and a new strategy to combat the problem is being called for.

Some experts say much of the problem may stem from unsophisticated employers unaware of the multitude of state and federal laws.

Although enforcement of child labor laws remains a widespread concern, there’s no quick fix to the problem.

A recent national survey of teenage workers found numerous violations of federal laws, including performing unlawful or unsafe tasks as well as working late on school nights. In addition, one-third of the teenagers said they had received no job-safety training, according to the survey by the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center of 866 teenagers working in the retail and service industries.

The Department of Labor must identify violators and potential violators and make it clear that violations will not be tolerated by bringing the hammer down on some of these employers.

Workplace fatalities in 2005 went up dramatically over 2004 for workers under 16 years of age. Each year, hundreds of thousands of U.S. teens are injured in the workplace and 70 die from those injuries, according to federal statistics. The Department of Labor needs to be a teen worker’s advocate and ought to take a vigorous proactive position.

Among teens who work in grocery stores and restaurants, 47 percent said they had performed tasks prohibited by law for employees under 18, according to the survey. Youth and inexperience also puts teenagers at a disadvantage when they’re asked to do something unsafe or illegal.

Rather than willfully disregarding laws, variations in regulations from state to state may create a scenario in which employers may be unaware of specific regulations – there’s not a universal federal standard that always applies.

Employers who do not restrict work hours as permitted by law create the “most logical” scenarios under which a lawsuit might be filed.

More than 2.3 million 16- and 17-year olds worked in the United States in 2005, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Statistics for younger working adolescents are unavailable.

Employers need to know and comply with laws, identify safety and health hazards, provide appropriate supervision, label equipment teens may not use, train teens to use safe procedures, make teens aware of tasks they may not perform and report all injuries.

In order to remain compliant with developments to child workplace laws, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording your employees’ clocking data and warns you against working time infringements of your workers.

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