Handling New Hires with Kid Gloves

A Gentle Reminder about Employing Minors

While it is not uncommon to employ minor employees at special districts, many employers don’t know that certain hazardous job functions performed by minors are strictly prohibited under federal and state laws.

The current expansion in the economy is adding more job opportunities for almost everyone, including minors. Last summer, approximately 53% of young people were employed, accounting for a labor force of 23 million in July 2016. A large number of these young workers are minors, or workers under 18 years of age.

Like many employers, special districts hire minor employees year round for positions such as lifeguards, library shelving helpers, weed sprayers, meter readers, and clerical workers. Despite the mutual benefits for both districts and the minor employees, it is imperative not to overlook the applicable labor laws and workers’ compensation complications that exist when employing minors.

Special districts should be aware that the Colorado Youth Employment Opportunity Act regulates the employment of minors in Colorado and defines a minor as any person under the age of 18 with an exception for a person who has received a high school diploma or a passing score on the GED exam. Under the current law, a minor is not permitted to work more than 40 hours a week or more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period. Federal law states that minors under 14 years are generally not employable. If minors are expected to work on school days, districts should obtain a copy of the school release permit issued as required by the Act.

Both state and federal law prohibit minors from certain job functions deemed hazardous. Before hiring a minor for any position, review the duties that they will perform to be sure the district is in compliance. Here are a few things that are often considered hazardous for minors:

  • The use of power-driven machines
  • Tasks that puts the worker more than 10′ off the ground
  • Firefighting
  • Logging
  • Drilling
  • Excavation operations

Employees that are currently minors are also not allowed to serve or handle alcoholic beverages. As for driving, the law only permits DMV licensed minors over the age of 16 to operate a motor vehicle, excluding any vehicle that may carry explosives, which requires the driver be at least 18.

While it is impossible to list all hazardous job functions, districts should review state labor laws or contact the Department of Labor for clarification. In accordance with CRS 8-12-116, failure to comply with the Act may result in monetary penalties and even imprisonment upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense.

The Pool’s Workers’ Compensation program covers minors in accordance with statute, subject to the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado.

For workers’ compensation purposes, a minor is a person under 21. In the event of an injury, a minor employee would receive the same level of temporary disability benefits based on the rating schedule approved by the Division of Insurance as if they were adult employees, and be entitled to the maximum benefits if the disability is permanent. However, all claims will have an impact on the historical loss experience for a few years.

For volunteers, workers’ compensation coverage is not automatic because special districts are not statutorily obligated to extend benefits. Getting a Waiver of Liability is one of the best practices to address volunteer issues, but your districts may also purchase a volunteer accident policy elsewhere that pays a cash award upon death or covered injuries.

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