Employing Summertime Workers Can Trigger Specific Laws

Posted by Charles Middleton on 07/13/2016

: Many companies offer summer internships to college students who are studying in fields relevant to their business.  The idea is that students benefit by getting real-life work experience, while companies get to test the skills of potential future employees.  If that's the case, do interns need to be paid?

A: Probably. Interns generally must be paid minimum wage and overtime. There's a possible exception to this rule, which depends on application of the following criteria:

•Although the internship includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer or occurs within the employer's operations, the internship is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment

•The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern

•The intern doesn't replace regular employees, and works under close supervision of existing staff

•The intern's activities don't provide any immediate advantage to the employer. To the contrary, in some cases the internship may detract from or impede the employer's operations

•The intern isn't necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship

•From the outset, the employer and intern understand that the intern isn't entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship

If each of these criteria is met, the relationship isn't an “employment relationship” for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and interns needn't be paid.  

Q: Are there any restrictions on the employment of minors?

A: Yes. There are potential limitations on the number of hours that can be worked and the type of work that can be performed. In the summertime, when school is out of session, persons ages 14 and 15 may not work more than eight hours per day, or more than 40 hours per week. They may work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., or until 9 p.m. during the period from June 1 to Labor Day. At age 16, children generally may be employed for unlimited hours, including overtime hours, but may not be employed in any occupation deemed hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labor. Hazardous occupations include jobs like manufacturing, maintenance or repair of machinery or equipment, use of power-driven machinery, loading/unloading motor vehicles, and work requiring the use of ladders, scaffolds, etc. At age 18, a person may work any job, for any number of hours.

Q: Certain businesses need to hire extra workers to keep up with seasonal demands for products and services.  Will the hiring of additional workers impact their status under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

A: It could. An employer is subject to the “employer mandate” provisions of the Affordable Care Act only if it is an “applicable large employer,” i.e., an employer that employs an average of at least 50 full-time employees or the equivalent during the preceding calendar year. But an employer isn't an “applicable large employer” if its workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees or the equivalent for 120 days or fewer during the calendar year and the employees in excess of 50 during this 120-day period are “seasonal workers.” Seasonal workers are those customarily employed for six months or less during the year whose employment begins about the same time each year. This may include popular summertime jobs like working at clubs or resorts, restaurants or other tourism-related employment. If your company is on this large employer “bubble,” be sure that use of additional employees during the summer months doesn't convert the company into an “applicable large employer” for purposes of providing health coverage.

PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER

Published The Oklahoman, July 13, 2016