Five Things Every Parent – and Small Business Owner – Should Know About Summer Jobs

School’s winding down, and a lot of high-school students will try to get a summer job. Summer jobs are good for students. They pay real money, which can come in handy, and a lot of businesses offer employee discounts, which are a great way to stretch a dollar.

Working over summer break has other benefits, too. Summer jobs can help build confidence and character, teach responsibility, and give students real-world experience that college admissions officers and future employers may appreciate. Summer jobs can also give students a better idea of what they do – or don’t – want to pursue as a career. But there are some important things you as a parent should know about your student’s job opportunities (employers should be aware of these, too):

The rules apply to them. Just because they’re in school doesn’t mean employers can take advantage of them. Minors are entitled to the same minimum wage, overtime, and safety and health protections as adults. When it comes to work, the federal wage and hour law, officially known as the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, applies to everyone, regardless of age. Other federal and state workplace laws apply to them, too.

  • Students 13 and younger have limited options when it comes to summer jobs. Federal law says they’re too young for most non-farming jobs, such as working in a store or restaurant, but there are still jobs they can do. They’re allowed to babysit and perform minor chores around a private home, and if you own a business, they’re allowed to work for you.
  • If they’re 14 or 15, their prospects are better. Students in this age bracket areallowed to perform jobs such as bagging groceries, waiting tables and working in an office, but they can’t use power-driven machinery, such as lawn mowers, lawn trimmers, and weed cutters. They also aren’t allowed to work more than 40 hours a week.
  • If they’re 16 or 17, they’re allowed to work up a sweat and earn serious money.  There’s no limit to the number of hours 16- and 17-year-olds can work, and they’re allowed to work basically any job that isn’t declared hazardous, provided all other FLSA and state labor requirements are met.
  • If they’re 18 or older, legally, they’re adults. It doesn’t matter that they’re still in school. In the eyes of the law, they’re grown up, and that means they can do pretty much any job for which they’re qualified.

Finally, keep in mind that many states have child labor rules that are even more protective than the federal FLSA rules. Employers must always follow the rules that provides employees with greater protections.


About Beth Milito

Elizabeth Milito serves as Senior Executive Counsel with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center, a position she has held since March 2004. She is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Ms. Milito previously worked as a trial attorney in Maryland and the District of Columbia and was the editor of notes and comments for the Maryland Law Review at the University of Maryland School of Law where she earned her Juris Doctor. Ms. Milito is responsible for managing cases and legal work for the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. She has testified before Congress on the small business impact of regulation and the civil justice system. She frequently counsels businesses facing employment discrimination charges, wage and hour claims, wrongful termination lawsuits, and in most other areas of human resources law. She also provides and develops on-line and on-site training on a variety of employment law matters and is a frequent media spokesperson on employment and labor matters. Ms. Milito also comments and writes regularly on small business cases before federal and state courts.
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