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Work hour restrictions for young workers in restaurants

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2023 | Employment Law

Young workers play a crucial role in the restaurant industry. Hiring teen workers can offer advantages in terms of return on investment, as they do not need employers to provide certain benefits that older workers may require. This can help businesses save costs and support profitability. However, employers should understand, that specific regulations govern young employees’ work hours.

Adhering to labor laws is essential as it protects these workers’ rights and helps keep them safe at work, especially those aged 14 and 15.

Protections for younger workers

Minor-aged employees must not work outside of federally allowed work hours. If a restaurant were to hire 14 or 15-year-olds, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, they must adhere to the following rules:

  • Minors can only work in a restaurant outside of school hours. They cannot work when they are supposed to be at school.
  • On school days and Fridays, they can work a maximum of 3 hours. But on days when they don’t have school, like a weekend or a holiday, they can work for up to 8 hours.
  • During a school week, they can work for 18 hours. But during a week when school is not in session, like summer vacation, they can work for up to 40 hours.
  • Minor-aged employees can only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except for the period between June 1 and Labor Day, when they can work until 9 p.m.

Unfortunately, many do not strictly follow these laws. An example of this is Arby’s franchisee, who failed to protect 65 workers who were under the age of 16. These employees, who were 14 and 15 years old, worked for more than three hours on a school day, past 7 p.m. on school nights and 9 p.m. after Labor Day. As a result of an investigation, the franchisee was advised to review child labor laws and pay $47,710 in penalties for violating younger workers’ rights.

Reasonable hours for minor-aged workers

Strict restrictions on younger employees’ work hours are there to protect their health, safety and education. Restaurants must follow these restrictions and create a work environment that is safe and lawful. Doing so enables young workers to work and develop important skills and knowledge in a place that values and nurtures them, free from exploitation.