Don’t Get Schooled: Summer’s the time for a refresher on Delaware child labor laws

Teen job applicants are coming to a workplace near you. As the school year winds down, here is a refresher on the legal limits Delaware employers should understand when hiring youths. Delaware employers must abide by both state and federal child labor laws. In addition, unlike most civil rights statutes, almost all employers, regardless of size, must comply with these laws – even family businesses, with some limited exceptions.

Dunce's Cap

Limitations on scope of work performed

Federal and state laws and regulations operate together to impose a complex set of limitations on employing minors (children under 18 years of age). There are prohibitions on the type of work minors may perform as well as the number of permissible hours they may work. Permissible work for employees between the ages of 14 and 18 encompasses work in retail, food service, and gasoline stations (as long as they don’t have a significant repair facility).

Hours of work

Minors under the age of 16 cannot work more than 4hours per day when school is in session, 8 hours per day when school is not in session, 18 hours per week when school is in session for a full week, or six days per week.

In addition, they cannot work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., with the exception that they may work until 9 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day. Minors under the age of 18 must have at least 8 consecutive hours of nonwork time per day and cannot spend more than 12 hours in a combination of school and work hours per day.

No minor may work more than 5 hours continuously without a half-hour break.

Employment certificate

Every employee under the age of 18 must have an employment certificate. The certificates are issued by the Delaware Department of Labor (DDOL) and the superintendent or authorized designee of each school district. You must keep such certificates on file and make them accessible to the DDOL on request. The DDOL offers a sample certificate

Workers’ compensation may not protect you

It’s also worth noting that illegally employed minors who are injured on the job are not necessarily limited to their workers’ compensation remedies. A minor or his or her estate may elect to sue under a theory of negligence and/or wrongful death in the event of a serious or fatal injury rather than pursue workers’ compensation remedies. Accordingly, the risk of employing a minor illegally lies not only in incurring civil penalties and damage to reputation, but also in significant increases for potential personal injury liability.

Don’t Get Schooled

Many employers find out about child labor laws the hard way: They get sued for thousands of dollars in civil fines. Don’t be one of them. Conduct your own child labor audit and contact the DDOL or your legal counsel if you have any questions about compliance.

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