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Wage & hour laws: what work laws apply to minors in Oklahoma?

For many high school students in Oklahoma and the rest of the United States, it is a rite of passage: the summer job. Whether in a retail outlet in the local mall, a food service worker in a fast food joint or a lifeguard at a beach or swimming pool, many teenagers use the opportunity to increase their independence from their parents by earning their own wages. More recently, during economically tougher times, some minors had to take jobs year round to help their struggling families. These under-age workers have some special rules that apply to them in the employment law context.

First, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers cannot generally employ children under the age of 16. Nonetheless, exceptions exist. For example, these exceptions include those being employed by their parents in non-hazardous occupations, between the ages of 14 and 16 in non-mining or manufacturing occupations that the Department of Labor specifically finds are not going to interfere with the education or health of the child.

In Oklahoma, those under 16 are required to have a work permit (also called a "schooling certificate") before they can enter into employment. There are also special hour and time restrictions that apply to these minor workers. Fourteen and 15-year-olds can only work 3 hours or less on school days, and up to a total of 18 hours a week while school is in session. When school is out for an entire week, these employees may work up to 40 hours. Further, minors under 16 cannot work before 7:00 a.m. anytime or after 7:00 p.m.

During the school year, or after 9:00 p.m., when school is out of session. These workers also must have a cumulative rest break of at least an hour for every 8 hours worked, and 30 minutes for each 5 hour period worked consecutively. It is important to note that, in Oklahoma, these rules do not apply once a child reaches age 16. Finally, workers under 18, who have not graduated high school are exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws.

As can be seen, employees who are minors have a different set of rules that apply to them. If you have questions about your child, or are an employer who wants to be sure you are following the law, you may wish to consider contacting an experienced employment law attorney.

Source: OK.gov, "Child labor law in Oklahoma," accessed on Jan. 13, 2014

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