An Echo Press Editorial: Advice for employers about hiring teens

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

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Signs and banners announcing job openings are all around Alexandria, including at McDonald's on the south side of town that's offering jobs for teens as young as 14. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)

With gobs of jobs out there but not enough workers to go around, businesses – notably restaurants and fast-food chains – are finding themselves in a jam.

Some businesses are hiring young workers to take on what may be their first real job.

Adding to that challenge is making sure that no one is breaking the law.

In a news release issued last week, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry reminded employers about labor laws that impact young workers.

“Many teens may be entering the workforce for the first time,” said Labor Commissioner Roslyn Robertson. “Teens can play a vital role in the economy, but it’s important they work safely and that employers follow applicable laws.”


Typically, teens are employed in restaurants, parks and recreation, amusement parks or federal or state youth employment programs, Robertson said.

Questions are popping up about what age young people must be to obtain employment, when they can work during the school year and the summer, and what type of work they can perform under the law. The restrictions are designed to protect young workers.

Here are some tips the labor department shared about hiring teen workers:

The minimum age teens can get a job is 14, unless they have a federal or state exemption that allows them to work at a younger age.

Workers age 15 or younger may not work: before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.; more than eight hours a day, except in agriculture; more than 40 hours a week, except in agriculture; and on school days during school hours, without permission from a school district superintendent.

Minors who are at least 16 do not have hours of work restrictions under Minnesota law.

Employers should keep in mind both federal and Minnesota laws govern minor workers. When both laws apply, employers must comply with the law that is most protective to the minor.

Federal and state laws restrict minors from working in a variety of hazardous jobs or conditions. This includes restricting minors from working in construction, in places where alcohol is served and with certain tools and machinery.


A recent change in state law allows 16- and 17-year-old employees to operate certain power-driven lawn equipment and operate amusement rides. Employers must meet certain conditions before allowing a 16- or 17-year old to operate an amusement ride, including requiring training and supervision by an adult.

Although employment of teens provides many benefits, the labor department warns that the potential for serious injury and death must not be ignored.

Common injuries include fire or burn injuries and injuries related to vehicle and equipment operation. Common causes of these injuries include lack of adequate equipment, training, inadequate supervision and no established work safety policies, the labor department noted.

Teen workers should ask questions and take safety seriously, as well as know they have a right to refuse unsafe work tasks and conditions and report potential violations to the labor department.

Another suggestion from the labor department: Co-workers of minor employees should model best practices, identify hazardous conditions and hours of work, and report potential violations. Robertson said employers should promote workplace safety and health, as well as worker rights and responsibilities, to teens entering or returning to the workforce.

For more information, visit or contact Labor Standards at 651-284-5075 or .

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