One of the most exciting moments in a teenager's life is when they get a job, but adolescents may still suffer injury or even be killed as the result of a workplace accident. Most injuries occur in the retail business and restaurant industries where finding entry-level jobs is much easier for young people. The pay is low - minimum wage or just above - and adolescents are willing to work for low pay since they often have other resources still available from their parents.
The New York wrongful death lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, have practiced personal injury law in New York since 1990. We know nothing will undo the pain of losing a loved one - especially one who had his or her entire life still ahead of them. We will apply our years of experience to seek compensation for the wrongful death of a young person on the job. Please call (212) 986-7353 for an initial cost free consultation regarding your case.
Youths may look like adults, but physically they are still maturing. Because they look grown-up, they may be assigned tasks which are not appropriate to their bodies' development. They may be asked to do heavy lifting, to drive large vehicles they are unfamiliar with, operate heavy machinery, etc. They are not ready for the demand of long hours of hard work. Long hours on the job can lead to fatigue and cause loss of concentration. Fatigued youth who have lost focus are susceptible to serious injury or even death on the job. Youth are more vulnerable to exposure to certain chemicals, to noise, extreme temperatures, and asthma-causing agents. They can suffer long-lasting damage to their central nervous systems, hearing, vision, etc.
Adolescents are less likely to speak up for themselves than adult workers. They are more reluctant to point out unsafe working conditions or equipment, and they may suffer their work assignments and overtime hours in silence. It is vital that young people understand that they have rights as employees and that there are legal actions they can take if they see misconduct at the workplace or if they are asked by a supervisor to do something that is illegal or dangerous.
New York has very strict regulations regarding the hours that minors are allowed to work each day and week, in order to ensure that young people are not exploited as they were in the past. These restrictions vary depending on the age of the person, the type of employment, and the time of year. In general, anyone under the age of 18 cannot work during school hours unless he or she has already graduated from high school or chosen to withdraw from school. Minors who are homeschooled cannot work during the hours of their local public school. Here is a general breakdown of when and how much young people can work, though you should consult directly with an experienced attorney before scheduling work hours for an adolescent to make sure no state or federal laws are violated:
Minors who are 14 or 15 years old may work:
- No more than 3 hours on a school day
- No more than 8 hours on a non-school day
- No more than 18 hours per week
- No more than 6 days each week
- No more than 40 hours per week when school is not in session
Minors who are 12 or 13 and have a farm work permit to pick fruit may work:
- No more than 4 hours per day
- Between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Between Labor Day and June 20 only when school is not in session
- Between June 21 and Labor Day, up to 4 hours per day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
There are additional regulations regarding work at night for minors:
- Minors under 16 cannot work between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. while school is in session
- Minors under 16 cannot work between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. during summer
- Young newspaper carriers cannot work between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- Minors who are 16 or 17 cannot work between midnight and 6 a.m. when school is not in session - and can only work between 10 p.m. and midnight prior to a school day with written permission from a parent or guardian.
Youths may have never been involved in a serious accident, and so they may believe they are invincible. The following characteristics of adolescents make them vulnerable to injury or death on the job:
- Youth are more willing to take risks.
- Youth may ignore on-the-job precautions, such as wearing protective hats, gloves, and steel-toed shoes on construction sites.
- Young workers may not be experienced at multitasking.
- Young people may be exposed to bullying or work place violence.
- Adolescents may become distracted by texting or talking on cell phones
- Adolescent workers who come from low-income families, who are immigrants, or who may have disabilities have higher rates of workplace injury.
Typically, a violation of labor laws is a misdemeanor, including those that govern working regulations for young people. If the violation results in serious injury or death, however, then there can be additional felony charges related to wrongful death. Basic penalties for violating labor laws include fines up to $1,000 for the first violation, $2,000 for the second, and $3,000 for the third and any subsequent violations by the employer. The Secretary of Labor can also determine a penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of labor law regarding a minor in the workplace, which is in addition to any other penalties.
Serious violations can also open an employer up to civil claims by those who are injured by the consequences of a violation. For example, if a young person is made to work later hours than are legally allowed, and as a result is involved in an accident that harms him or her, then the young employee and his or her parents may be able to bring a lawsuit against the employer who caused the conditions that resulted in the injury. Opportunities for such civil suits and damages that can be sought depending on the individual nature of each incident, so speak to an experienced labor law attorney before filing any lawsuit.
There are quite a few exclusions and special rules governing youths working in certain fields in New York. While the specifics are quite lengthy, here are a few general guidelines:
- No one under the age of 16 may work on a factory floor, though 14 and 15-year-old workers are allowed to perform delivery and desk jobs at a factory office.
- Minors who are 14 and 15 can also work in delivery jobs or at the counter for a store where items are cleaned, pressed, or repaired such as dry cleaning stores, tailors, and laundry stores—so long as they do not work near dangerous machinery.
- Minors as young as 11 years old may work as newspaper carriers, though they cannot work before 5 a.m. or during school hours.
- Children of any age can legally work as models or performers, but certain permits are required from the New York State Department of Labor.
There are additional stipulations and regulations in place regarding jobs such as babysitting or farm labor, so be sure to speak with an experienced child labor lawyer before hiring a minor to ensure you do so in a way that is legal and ethical.
Taking legal action can't turn back the clock but may provide the closure needed in order to move on with your life. If a loved one has lost his or her life due to injuries suffered while on the job, contact the New York worker injury attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, who have decades of experience handling personal injury/wrongful death cases. We offer free initial consultations to potential clients. Please call us at (212) 986-7353 to discuss your rights and options.