Earning an "A" For Employing Teen Workers

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As much as Hoosier teenagers might love for Alice Cooper to be right about school being out for summer equaling school being out forever, life doesn’t quite happen that way. While Indiana’s teens readjust to the schedules and demands of life outside of summer vacation, Indiana’s manufacturing employers are making similar adjustments. Some companies looking to supplement their workforces realize that some new hires may still be in school; other companies that already employ minors want to ensure they are doing so properly. Regardless of where your company falls on that spectrum, the important first step is knowing what limitations Indiana and federal laws place on the employment of minors or children: a syllabus, if you will, of Indiana’s child labor laws.

Indiana employers must generally abide by both state and federal child labor laws and apply whichever is stricter. Indiana’s laws are generally stricter than federal laws on this front, so we will start the lesson there. Indiana child labor law covers three primary areas: (1) which minors can work, (2) what hours minors can work, and (3) what tasks or jobs minors can perform. Understanding each of these three areas is a crucial first step in adding minors to your company’s workforce or managing minors who already work for your company.

Under Indiana law, children under 14 years of age may not be employed, except in a few very specific positions (such as golf caddies, youth sports referees, and newspaper delivery persons). These few specified jobs are unlikely to be applicable to Indiana’s manufacturers.

Children ages 14-17 may work for an employer after receiving a work permit from the school corporation district where the child resides; this applies to all minors, whether enrolled in public school, private school, or home-schooled. Employers must ensure a minor has a valid work permit before allowing the minor to begin working, and the employer must keep that permit on file throughout the minor’s employment. There are some specific exceptions, such as children who graduate high school early or who complete an approved equivalency program, but those situations are rare and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis. If a minor comes to your company seeking employment, you can provide them an “Intent to Employ” form available from the Indiana Department of Labor website.

Indiana also limits the number of hours and times of day minor employees may work, which varies based on the time of year and whether school is in session on a given day. Employers must post a teen work hours restrictions poster (available from the Indiana Department of Labor website) in the workplace. Fourteen- and 15-year olds are limited to three hours of work on a school day and may work no earlier than 7 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m. During a school week (a week with two or more days of school), 16- and 17-year olds may not work:
      • more than 8 hours a day
      • more than 30 hours per week
      • more than 6 calendar days a week
      • prior to 6 a.m.
      • later than 10 p.m.
      • during the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Parents of 17-year olds (but not of 16-year olds) can give written permission for the minor to work slightly later in the evening—until 11:30 p.m. or 1 a.m. during school weeks under specified circumstances. During non-school weeks such as summer or winter vacation, minors may work slightly later hours depending on the time of year and whether the parents have given written permission. Regardless of age or the time of year, Indiana employers must provide one or two paid breaks, totaling 30 minutes, to any minor scheduled to work 6 or more consecutive hours, and employers should keep documentation of those breaks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for manufacturing employers, Indiana and federal law limits what jobs minors may perform. An important point to note is that Indiana specifically forbids manufacturing employers from employing 14- or 15-year olds in any manufacturing capacity, and school officers are not permitted to issue work permits for children of those ages for work in manufacturing jobs. Therefore, the below is a non-exhaustive list of duties 14-15 year olds cannot perform:
     • duties in work rooms or work places where goods are manufactured
     • operate, set up, or clean machinery
     • cook, bake, work in freezers/coolers, or prepare meat
     • load, unload, or otherwise help in the operation of a motor vehicle
     • any warehousing or storage work
Even with these broad prohibitions, 14- and 15-year olds may perform work in an office separate from the manufacturing workspace and can use office machines, vacuums, and floor waxers. They can also perform general grounds maintenance, packing, shelving, cashiering, or artistic work, as well as some other narrow specified tasks.

Minors aged 16-17 are less limited, but there are still significant areas of work in a manufacturing setting they cannot perform, because Indiana or federal laws consider those areas hazardous for minors. A nonexhaustive list of jobs 16-17 year olds cannot do includes:
     • handling or transporting explosive compounds
     • performing duties in a building where primers are manufactured
     • priming cartridges • work involving blasting caps
     • driving as part of the job duties if the vehicle travels on a public street (17-year olds may drive, but only during daylight, only within a 30-mile radius of the primary working site, and only if the vehicle weighs under 6,000 pounds gross)
     • operation of certain woodworking machines
     • any job that has exposure to radioactive substances
     • using power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines
     • using balers, compactors, and power driven paper products machines
     • manufacturing brick, tile, and related products
     • using power-drive circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs
     • roofing and work performed on or about a roof
     • trenching and excavating
If there is any concern about whether a minor can perform a specific duty or job in a facility, legal counsel can provide valuable insight after examining the fact-specific nature of a company’s operations.

Given all these requirements, employers examining the employment of minors in the workforce can often feel like a student cramming the night before a final exam. However, by reviewing this syllabus, and using the “ultimate study aid” available through engaging legal counsel, every employer can set the curve for how to lawfully and responsibly employ minors and can best avoid being sent to the Department of Labor principal’s office.

For more information, contact Justin Spack at (317) 236-2495 or justin.spack@icemiller.com or any other member of Ice Miller's Labor and Employment Group.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader's specific circumstances.

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