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Teen Workplace Safety

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When summer begins, many teens and college students look for part-time work. They may settle on jobs like landscaping, construction, and maintenance, which can have high rates of injury. Even jobs in places like coffee shops and movie theaters can lead to burn injuries. Unfortunately, many teens entering the work force are unaware of their rights as employees and any possible hazards they might encounter. So what are a teenager’s rights in summer or other part-time work? Are they entitled to worker’s compensation?

Rethinking Worker’s Compensation

There was a recent case in Georgia where a minor was working in a fast food kitchen. He fell and slipped, and his hand ended up in a vat of boiling grease. Was this young worker offered special protections? The answer is yes; teens are entitled to special worker’s compensation protections, especially if they are under the age of 18.

Every state requires special considerations for worker’s compensation. In fact, most states provide over and beyond what worker’s compensation provides for adults. Either way, worker’s compensation for teens hinges on three basic criteria.

1. Future Earning Capacity

This element comes into play when a teen has suffered a partial permanent disability or full permanent disability on the job. California is one of 23 states that considers future earning capacity, though the amount of consideration varies quite a bit. It is important to note that even a small loss of income per year can add up, especially when you figure that a teen has a 40 to 50 year career ahead of him or her.

2. Illegal Employment

Statutes for worker’s compensation have no pity on employers with minors working for them illegally. Examples of illegal employment include working without a permit, employing a teen who is too young (generally under the age of 15), or a teen working in excess of state labor statutes. For example, if you have a teenager working in your kitchen and he or she burns a hand baking bread, you are employing a teen illegally; 14 and 15-year-olds are not allowed bake or cook over an open flame under California law.

States tend to be merciless on employers who break the law and award the injured teen benefits in excess of what is due to adults. In California, teens are awarded worker’s compensation that is greater than adult’s benefits by 50%.

3. Special Benefit Provisions

Most states have extra provisions to protect a teen, particularly from complex laws they are not yet able to understand. In California, a parent or guardian must settle for partial or full disability claims. Also, claims involving teens must be settled directly with the state worker’s compensation board in California. This is to keep minors from being exploited.

Keeping Teens Safe

The best course of action is to keep teens safe enough from ever needing to seek worker’s compensation. State and Federal agencies work hard to keep teenagers safe on the job. Here are some resources to go over with your teen before starting work:

  • OSHA’s Young Workers. This website is a great resource that offers tools by industry. It offers guidance for teens working in restaurants (including what they can and cannot serve, like alcohol) and agriculture (teens may not operate heavy machinery), as well as how-to videos for construction and landscaping.
  • California DIR Young Worker’s Program. This page set up by California’s Department of Industrial Relations is a useful tool for both parents and employers. It offers information on California’s labor code, as well as fact sheets for teens.

If you have any questions, or if your teen has been involved in a workplace accident and you need guidance, contact us immediately.