Department of Labor rules place limitations on employment of unpaid interns, teens

McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Nathan Whatley was featured in The Oklahoman discussing the U.S. Department of Labor’s rules governing the employment of teenagers and unpaid summer interns. The agency recently announced it would be cracking down on the use of unpaid interns by for-profit employers who do not abide by their strict limitations.

Whatley said that if the internship does not qualify under the labor rules, then the employer would have to pay the intern back wages for minimum wage and any overtime worked, as well as unpaid state and federal taxes. “An employer could also be liable for unpaid benefits, unemployment insurance coverage and potentially face fines and associated legal expenses,” he said.

When asked what limitations employers should be mindful of when employing teenage students, Whatley shared that those limitations vary depending on the age of the student. “Once children turn 16, they can be employed for unlimited hours in any occupation, so long as the occupation has not been declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor,” said Whatley. “Children 14 and 15 can be employed, so long as the work has not been declared hazardous and as long as the employer complies with certain time restrictions.”

Whatley also shared that children the ages of 14 and 15 can be employed when school is not in session, for up to eight hours per day and 40 hours per week, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except between June 1 and Labor Day when they can work until 9 p.m.