Employees can pay minors below minimum wage...but likely won't in current job market; labor and employment attorney looks at rules for Michigan employers hiring teen workers

Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero; EAFocus Communications; 248.260.8466; barbara@eafocus.com

Detroit –May 1, 2024–--Michigan minimum wage may be $10.33 an hour, but employers are only required to pay 85% of that rate ($8.78 an hour) for minors aged 16 and 17. Still, as “We’re Hiring” signs abound, Michigan employers serious about bringing teen workers on board this summer will need to pay more than even the traditional minimum wage to snare teen workers. A quick look at area jobs that may be perfect for young workers find a chair rental company offering $16-$17 an hour with the potential for tips; a pizza carryout cashier job paying $12-$16 an hour; a dishwasher paying $12-$14 an hour; and a golf course hiring workers at $15 an hour - with free golf. Nick Huguelet, a partner at Detroit-based management-side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer PC, notes that while teen wages may be rising, the Michigan Youth Employment Standards Act remains consistently focused on best practices for teen safety.

“The Michigan Youth Employment Standards Act governs the hours minors (teens under age 18) can work, permit requirements, limits on accessibility to alcohol, use of motorized equipment and handling cash in the evening, just to name a few. The Act generally puts forth common sense rules to help keep teens safe at work while also protecting employers from potential liability,” Huguelet said.

Michigan law regarding teen workers

Huguelet offers a quick rundown of key guidelines for young workers and their employers:

  • A work permit is required for minors and can be obtained through the child’s school. There are two permits depending on the age of the minor.

  • In the summer, minors aged 16-17 may work between 6 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. During the school year, minors aged 16-17 may only work between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., except on Fridays and Saturdays (or during school vacation periods), when they can work until 11:30 p.m.

  • Minors under 16 years of age may only be employed between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

  • Minors cannot handle cash after 8 p.m. or sunset (whichever is earlier) unless there is another employee present who is at least 18.

  • Minors cannot sell or serve alcoholic beverages, but a minor 16 years of age or older (or age 14 in a retail setting) can work where alcohol is being sold if alcohol doesn’t exceed 50% of sales.

  • Employers must ensure that a minor is provided with at least one 30-minute meal or rest period for every five hours of continuous work.

  • The Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (minimum wage law) allows employers to pay minors 85% of the established minimum wage.  This means the minimum wage for minors is currently $8.78 (85% of $10.33).

  • Teens under the age of 20 may be paid a “training hourly wage” of $4.25 for the first 90 days of employment.

  • Teens working in amusement or recreational establishments are not entitled to overtime pay if the establishment does not operate for more than seven months in a calendar year.

  • Summer camp employees are exempt from Michigan’s minimum wage and overtime requirements as long as they are employed for four months or less.

  • Individuals must be at least 18 to operate power-driven equipment such as meat slicers, mixers, saws and motor vehicles, including OSHA and MIOSHA regulated equipment such as forklifts.

Some exceptions governing young workers

Summer also creates employment opportunities for tweens and younger teens to work in a family business because immediate family members are exempt from minimum age laws when their parents own the business. There are also exceptions for minors working in farming. Caddying is considered a safe job, and minors as young as 11 are legally allowed to be caddies; however, some golf course jobs, such as mowing the greens with huge tractors or retrieving golf balls in a motorized vehicle, can and do result in serious injury or death and individuals must be 18 and trained to perform those jobs.

Michigan’s Department of Technology Management & Budget recently released its 2024 job market forecast for Michigan teens aged 16 to 19 and 218,000 are forecasted to be employed this summer from June through August. Huguelet, whose first summer job was as a landscaper, offers that summer employment can start teens on a lifelong path of good work habits and solid financial footing.

“Teen workers not only earn a wage, they can gain skills training, career exploration and networking opportunities that can lead to full-time work after college or trade school,” Huguelet said. “Employers gain employees to help fill seasonal gaps or to train young workers for future full-time employment. The employer/teen worker experience tends to be a positive one.”

For more information governing youth employment, please visit the State of Michigan website.

About Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer PC

Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law, workplace investigations, and management consultation and training for private and public sector employers. The firm also provides arbitration and mediation services. Woman-owned and led since its founding in 1992, Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer exclusively represents management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.

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Woman-owned and led, Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer has exclusively represented management in the prevention, resolution, and litigation of labor and employment disputes for more than 30 years.

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