Jobs at restaurants and in the food service industry can be some of the best places for teenagers to work. The jobs are usually fun, and opportunities exist to work with friends and other teenagers. Most of us have pretty fond memories of our earliest jobs.
However, we don’t want our teens to be put in situations where they need to choose between school and their jobs. As a result, restrictions against teenage employment are in place to protect your teen from unfair workplace situations. The intent behind the restrictions is that your teenager’s education should always remain their highest priority. Your teen’s learning process takes time – both inside and outside of the classroom – and no one wants a teenage job to interfere with their education.
No one under 16 years old may be employed in a restaurant or public dining room. This restriction recognizes that restaurant work, in particular food preparation and cooking, can cause serious injuries if not correctly performed. Teens under age 16 might not appreciate the dangers inherent in this kind of work.
Time and Hours Spent
There are also time and hour restrictions for 16 years old and 17 years old restaurant workers depending upon whether they are working during a school week or during a non-school week:
- During school weeks, teenage workers can work between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. (Midnight if there is no school the next day). On school days, they can work no more than six hours per day and no more than a maximum of 32 hours per week.
- On non-school days or days not preceding a school day (generally Friday, Saturday or Sunday), teenage workers can work up to eight hours per day.
- During non-school weeks (such as school vacations or summer break), teenage workers can work up to eight hours per day for a maximum of 48 hours per week, but they cannot be scheduled to work more than six days per work week.
Type of Work
Our law also prohibits teenagers under 18 years old from having certain job duties common to the restaurant and food service industry. These workplace activities are considered simply too dangerous for younger workers. Here are some examples:
- Slaughtering or meat packing, meat processing or rendering activities (including the use of electric meat slicer machines)
- Motor vehicle driving (not permitted at all for 16 years old workers, and no more than 25% of job time for 17 years old workers)
- Beverage bottling
- Manufacturing/processing of food products
- The use of trash and/or cardboard compactor machines
If the restaurant serves alcohol, your teenager must be at least 18 years old to be employed. Minors (anyone under 21 years old) cannot drink alcohol – even if they work in a restaurant that serves alcohol to its customers.
As a general rule, we don’t want to block minors from working in any restaurant that serves alcohol. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair either to the minor or the restaurant.
To solve the problem, the law has struck a balance. Workers under age 21 are allowed to serve alcoholic drinks to their customers, and they can also clean up finished drink bottles and glasses from tables, but…there is no legal exception that allows them to drink alcohol themselves.
For Example: Jenny is 20 years old, and she works as a waitress at a local pizza restaurant. The restaurant serves alcohol to its patrons. During football games, many friendly customers offer to buy Jenny a beer.
Can Jenny sit down and have a beer with the bar’s customers?
NO!!! Jenny is still too young to legally drink alcohol. She is a minor under the alcohol laws. Even though she works at the pizza restaurant, is almost legal age, and she can both serve alcohol and clean up her customer’s alcoholic drinks, Jenny cannot drink the alcohol herself. The restaurant and the customers both face severe civil and criminal penalties if they buy a beer for Jenny.
These are just a few of the legal issues that can come up when teenagers get jobs with restaurants or in the food service industry. If you have any further questions, please give me a call. I am here to help!