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National Restaurant Association - Teen hiring: Watch the rules

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Teen hiring: Watch the rules

Many restaurateurs will be adding new employees to their payrolls this summer -- including thousands of teenage employees.

As they do, it's important to keep federal and state teen labor laws in mind.

Federal teen labor law limits hours and responsibilities for employees age 14 and 15. It also restricts workers under age 18 from performing certain duties.

Every state has teen labor restrictions too. Whenever a state standard differs from the federal standard, the higher standard must be observed. State laws are often detailed and subject to constant change. The National Restaurant Association encourages operators to consult with their state labor department before acting on an important matter relating to teen labor.

Restrictions on 14- and 15-year-olds

Although the minimum age for employment under federal law is generally 16 years, 14- and 15-year-olds are permitted to work under certain conditions. Generally, the Department of Labor allows teens who are 14 and 15 years old to work in most occupations as long as their employment does not interfere with their schooling or their health and well-being.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 14- and 15-year-olds may not be employed:

-- during school hours, except when participating in Work Experience and Career Exploration Programs
-- before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. (from June 1 through Labor Day, 14- and 15-year-olds may work until 9 p.m.)
-- more than three hours a day on school days
-- more than 18 hours a week during school weeks
-- more than eight hours a day on nonschool days
-- more than 40 hours a week during nonschool weeks.

Many states set stricter limits than federal law. In these cases the higher standard applies.

DOL regulations also outline what duties 14- and 15-year-olds are able to perform in the kitchen. The following duties are permissible for workers age 14 and 15 under federal law:

-- may use "milk shake blenders," which means equipment used to make "to-order" milkshakes for an individual customer. Other types of blenders and mixers are generally prohibited for this age group.
-- may cook with a gas or electric grill that does not have an open flame
-- may use a deep fryer that is equipped with a device that automatically raises and lowers the basket
-- may perform various food-and-beverage prep work. Examples of machines and devices employees age 14 and 15 may work with include microwave ovens that do not have the capacity to warm above 140 degrees Fahrenheit; dishwashers; devices used to maintain food temperatures (warmers, heat lamps, etc.); pop-up toasters; coffee machines, including expresso machines; popcorn poppers.
-- may clean, maintain and repair cooking devices such as grills, deep-fat fryers, and steam tables if equipment surfaces are below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
-- may change, clean, and dispose of oil and grease or oil and grease filters if the temperature of the liquid is less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Employees age 14 and 15:

-- may not cook on a grill that has an open flame
-- may not perform any baking, including any part of the baking process: weighing, mixing, putting products in pans or trays; operating pans of any type; and removing items from ovens or placing on cooling trays
-- may not use a deep-fryer basket that must manually be raised or lowered
-- may not use a rotisserie or pressurized equipment including fryolaters, or cooking devices that operate at extremely high temperatures, such as "Neico broilers"
-- may not use an automated broiler for chicken, beef, hamburgers, bread or buns
-- may not clean equipment such as grills, deep-fat fryers and steam tables when the surface of the equipment is hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
-- may not filter and dispose of cooking oil or grease that is hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (this includes a ban on lifting, moving or carrying containers or hot grease or oil 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
-- may not operate, set up, adjust, clean, oil or repair power-driven food slicers and grinders, food choppers and cutters, and bakery-type mixers
-- may not work in freezers and meat coolers, except for work requiring them to "occasionally" enter freezers only momentarily to retrieve items.

Restrictions on employment of 16- and 17-year-olds

Federal law does not restrict nighttime or morning work or set maximum daily or weekly hours for 16- and 17-year-olds. However, workers age 16 and 17 may not be employed in occupations the Secretary of Labor has declared particularly hazardous. The DOL has issued a number of "hazardous orders" to define which occupations are hazardous.

Under the DOL's hazardous orders, for example, workers age 16 and 17 cannot operate or help in operating or setting up, adjusting, repairing, oiling or cleaning any horizontal or vertical dough mixer (except they may operate power-driven pizza dough rollers and portable countertop food mixers), batter mixer, bread-divider, rounding or molding machine, dough brake, dough shooter, combination bread slicer and wrapping machine, or cake-cutting band saw.

Get more information on teen labor laws on the Department of Labor's website.


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