May 4, 2018 – As we finally enter the summertime, many Boston-area teens are looking for jobs to make some money and help pass the time off of school. Unfortunately, some employers might try and take advantage of young people who they assume don’t know their rights. But armed with the appropriate legal knowledge you can fight back against illegal practices.
Firstly, you need to make sure that you complete the entire Youth Employment Process for Massachusetts. This flow chart lays out each step required, including getting this application all filled out, before Day 1 on the job.
Sorry middle schoolers, but except for babysitting, minor housework for friends, or performing in a movie, you can’t work if you’re younger than 14. After that there are certain tasks that 14 and 15 year olds cannot perform, and some that 16 and 17 year olds are not allowed to be asked to do either. This advisory lays out every prohibited action, most of which are already dangerous tasks like using heavy machinery, hazardous materials, or being around extremely hot surfaces.
Once at your permissible job make sure to keep your eye on the clock! Your employer can’t have you work over 48 hours a week or 6 days in a week if you/re 16 or 17. The exact hours and times of day you can work vary depending on your age and the nature of the job, but the Attorney General sums it all up here. Also, your boss needs to give you a 30 minute lunch break for every 6 consecutive hours worked.
When pay-day comes around, be sure to double check that your employer paid you what you’re owed. For most jobs, minimum wage is $11 an hour in this Commonwealth. If you work some jobs (for example, a waiter) you can be paid just $3.75 an hour because it’s assumed that you’ll get tips. If, however, at the end of the week you haven’t made just as much or more than you would’ve based on hours worked at the full $11 an hour, your employer owes you the difference.
To illustrate this: Image that you are a waiter at a local burger joint, making $3.75 an hour, and you worked 20 hours last week and got $60 in tips because it was a slow week. Since you only pocket $135 ($3.75 x 20 hours, plus $60 tips), your employer owes you another $85 because you would’ve made $220 working 20 hours at a non-tipped job earning $11/hour.
If you suspect your employer hasn’t been following the law, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office and they’ll investigate. Additionally, call the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625 or fill out our online form here to get in contact with an experienced employment attorney in just minutes.