When my husband was seventeen, he spent a summer working construction with a bunch of men twice his age. Making much more than minimum wage, he kept his mouth shut when he was charged with tasks far beyond his strength and skills. He didn’t even tell his parents when a 60-pound slab of drywall fell on his back because he was afraid his parents would make him quit, and he was enjoying his summer mad money.
Hey, who can blame him? Teen summer jobs can be both thrilling and rewarding. My first job was at an ice cream shop, and I loved it. Well now, it may have had some pretty tasty perks! Many of you have kids who are looking for a first job or are already employed. As parents, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our children are both safe and following state and federal employment laws. Here’s a quick overview of what parents need to know:
Age requirements: Generally, children must be 14 years old to work in Virginia, and they must be paid at least minimum wage, currently $8 an hour. Under certain conditions, children as young as 12 can work as newspaper carriers on regular routes. All minors under 16 require employment certificates, which can be obtained from most public middle and high schools and many private schools (ask for the Child Labor Work Permit Issuing Officer). Additionally, minors are barred from working in certain hazardous jobs. Contact the Virginia Department of Labor for a complete list of prohibited jobs, and rely on your gut instinct if something seems unsafe for your child.
Hours and wages: Minors under 16 may not work more than 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours on a school week, 8 hours on any one non-school day, or 40 hours on any non-school week. They may not work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., except between June 1st and Labor Day, when they may work until 9 p.m. Additionally, 14- and 15-year-olds must be given a 30-minute break after 5 consecutive hours of work. Employers who violate any of these child labor laws face hefty fines; violations can be reported to the Virginia Department of Labor.
Taxes: Generally, minors who earn more than $5,700 a year must file their own tax returns. And don’t worry, as long as your child does not claim herself as a dependent, you can still do so. The best bet is to hire a professional for the first tax filing after your child gets a job, as the specifics, and exceptions to the general rules, can get intricate. As always, check with the IRS for current rules.
All legal requirements aside, we parents must be involved in the activities of our kids, jobs included. When I was 14 and working at that ice cream shop, I thought my mom just really liked the peppermint fudge ice cream. Now I know that she was checking up on her little girl – well, that, and maybe indulging a sweet tooth, too! Hmmmmm, not a bad idea. Now, if I could only arrange for my daughter’s first job to be at SweetFrog.