Coming of Age in the Workforce

Fast Food Worker

My oldest daughter works at a local fast-food restaurant.   While she has just entered college, she started working at the restaurant during her senior year in high school.  And, like all younger workers, she was worried that college students would come home for summer break and take some of her hours to make some money.   Jobs are at a premium these days as you know, with a national unemployment rate hovering around 9.1% as of August 2011.   Fortunately, her hours did not decrease much even though, as was broadcast this year, college students were having difficulty landing summer work.

Younger workers are an important part of the employment pool; they take your order at fast-food counters, bag your groceries, and show you the newest electronic toy at big box retail stores.   They are a growing part of our workforce, as Baby Boomers are now reaching retirement age and new waves of workers are entering our economy.

What really surprised me, though, was the age you can be legally employed.   The U.S. Department of Labor sets specific rules and guidelines for youthful workers through the Fair Labor Standards Act.   Did you know that the minimum age for employment is 14 years old?   What were YOU doing when you were 14?

Should your company have the need to employee younger-aged workers, check with your local government office to see which state and federal rules may apply to you.   Restrictions may include:

  1. Number of hours worked during a week.
  2. Time of day the employee may work.
  3. Exclusion of hazardous job classes, such as mining, logging, explosives, and certain types of machinery operations.

Also, injuries can occur with younger workers as often as they can with an older, more seasoned worker.    Although the youngster may be more agile and energetic, a lack of supervision or training, as well as performing duties that are beyond their skill or maturity level can lead to injury.

Employing this age class requires considerable thought.   Make sure to know the laws governing the employment of younger workers (visit www.doi.gov for more information), as well as know what state or local government laws may apply to you.   Take the time to establish a comprehensive training program that is tailored for that audience – remember, kids have a short attention span!   And, don’t forget to supervise them at all times.   Although these new workers have newfound independence, they still need to be guided and watched over.

Do you employ young workers like my daughter?   If so, share your success stories with us, or maybe the time that young worker created a problem for you.   The youth of America are part of our workforce, so let’s get them started on the right foot!

7 Comments on “Coming of Age in the Workforce

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