HR Alert: Teen Employee Bill of Rights

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New York Governor Hochul recently unveiled a Youth Workers’ Bill of Rights – this serves as a great reminder of the considerations that come with employing teenagers. Teens have restrictions on what jobs they can perform, hours they can work, and more. Let’s go over the bill of rights and what it means for employers.

What’s the Youth Workers Bill of Rights?

In 2022, the number of child labor law violations rose a substantial 68%. In an attempt to combat this, Governor Kathy Hochul implemented efforts to protect youth workers in our State. In a partnership with New York’s Department of Labor and Education Department, she launched the Youth Workers Bill of Rights. This is an easy-to-understand document that outlines the basic rights that teens have while working. It’s given to them when they receive their working papers.

What does the Youth Workers Bill of Rights say?

We’ve talked about employing teenagers before. The State now has increased its attention on this subgroup of employees with the publication of a Youth Workers Bill of Rights which highlights 10 specific rights that young people have when it comes to the workforce.

These are:

  1. You have the right to receive your full paycheck on your regular payday;
  2. You have the right to earn at least the minimum wage for every hour you work;
  3. You have the right to receive a pay stub every time you are paid;
  4. You have the right to a safe workplace and cannot do dangerous jobs;
  5. You have the right to keep any tips you receive;
  6. You have the right to take breaks at least every six hours;
  7. You have the right to a discrimination-free workplace;
  8. You have the right to attend school and cannot be scheduled to work during school hours;
  9. You have the right to study and rest, and your employer can only ask you to work a limited number of hours; and
  10. You have the right to speak up and cannot be fired for reporting a problem.

This clear, concise list gives a basis of knowledge to our youngest – and arguably most vulnerable – population. It helps them to enter the workforce knowing they need to be treated fairly and in accordance with the law.

What other resources are available?

In addition to the bill of rights, the State has launched a series of other resources. The Governor’s Office provided schools with handheld guides and posters to publish in high schools around the State. It also created a Youth Worker Information Hub. This is an online resource where information about restricted positions or hours can be found. Last, there’s a pilot Employer Pledge program where businesses can pledge against Labor Law violations and that they will protect youth workers.

What steps should employers take?

If your business employs teens under 18 or has the potential to hire them, there are some special considerations. First, ensure your industry can employ youth workers at all. Some jobs, like roofing, aren’t permitted to have any employees under 18 years old (with few exceptions). Second, employers must ensure the necessary paperwork is received. Any worker under the age of 18 needs working papers, also known as an employment certificate. As employers, it’s important to receive these documents and verify them. It may go without saying, but teenaged workers also must be paid minimum wage, a point emphasized in the bill of rights.

The most commonly misunderstood aspect of employing teens is the daily and weekly maximum for working hours. These can vary by time of year, day of the week, and age of the employee, so it’s very easy to get lost in the details. To simplify it, in general:

  • For 14 and 15 year olds: While school is in session, they can work 3 hours on school days and 8 hours on weekends, between 7 AM and 7 PM, for a total of 18 hours weekly. While out of school, they can work 8 hours daily, between 7 AM and 9 PM, for a maximum total of 40 hours weekly.
  • For 16 and 17 year olds: While school is in session, they can work 4 hours on Monday-Thursday, and 8 hours on Fridays, weekends, and holidays, between 6 AM and 10 PM, for a maximum total of 28 hours weekly. While out of school, they can work 8 hours a day, between 6 AM and midnight, for a total of 48 hours weekly.

A handy chart is provided by the Department of Labor here.

What happens if my company doesn’t honor the Youth Workers Bill of Rights?

The Youth Workers Bill of Rights is modeled after the Labor Laws regarding employing minors, so there shouldn’t be any big surprises if you’ve been compliant over the years. If your business doesn’t honor them, as you might expect, you won’t be compliant with New York’s laws. If you violate child labor laws, there are risks of associated fines which can range from $1,000 to $3,000. The efforts to combat rising Labor Law violations also led to the creation of a Labor Standards team. They conduct targeted investigations into industries or businesses that often employ minors. The team has conducted more than 300 investigations since its creation. This is why employers must pay close attention to their youth workers and the associated laws.

What’s next?

The Governor and New York State continue to show their dedication to workers and workers rights. As employers, we want to be fair to all employees and, at the same time, often are burdened by State mandates. The focus on teenager rights underscores that employers in New York must remain diligent to the changing world of employment law in order to avoid adverse consequences. We can help keep you in compliance!

If you’ve got any questions about employment law or youth workers, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Coppola Firm at 716.839.9700 or info@coppolalegal.com.

We’re always here to help you.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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