Ice cream store is fined over teen workers’ hours. A refresher on child labor laws

One of South Florida’s more popular ice cream chains was recently hit with a $15,000 fine for breaking child labor laws.

Federal officials say five Rita’s Italian Ice locations — all owned by one Hialeah-based franchise — allowed underage employees to work longer and later hours than the law allows.

So what are those rules? How young can children in Florida get paid to work?

As a refresher, Florida law allows youths 14 and up to work for a salary. According to Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, there are exceptions for kids working in their parents’ businesses, the entertainment industry, “non-hazardous jobs” and newspaper delivery.

Kids don’t need parental permission to get a job.

“However, we strongly encourage employers to include parents in the process,” the department says on its website, which lists mandatory posters about child labor rules employers must display if they hire children.

The most stringent restrictions on youth employees are in the number of hours they’re allowed to work.

For 14- and 15-year-olds, they can work a maximum of three hours a day on school days and up to eight hours a day on weekends or non-school days when a school day doesn’t follow. In total, kids in this age group may only work 15 hours in a week between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. They cannot work during public school hours.

In the summer, the hours open up a bit. Youths can work a full 40-hour week with up to eight hours a day, but no earlier than 7 a.m. or later than 9 p.m.

Older youths — 16- and 17-year-olds — can’t work earlier than 6:30 a.m. or later than 11 p.m. They also can’t work more than eight hours a day, or during school hours. While school is in session, teens are limited to a maximum of 30 hours a week.

But on non-school days or summer vacations, those hour limits don’t apply.

“When school does not follow the next day, such as Friday, Saturday, and other days that precede a holiday, minors 16 and 17 may work until their shift is completed. Example: A minor begins work on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and the shift ends at 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning. This is not considered a violation of the regulation that minors may not work before 6:30 a.m. when school is scheduled the following day, because the minor is completing his Saturday shift, and not beginning a work shift before 6:30 a.m. on Sunday,” the department’s website reads.

Some rules apply for all youth workers year-round, including mandatory 30-minute, uninterrupted meal breaks every four hours, and a ban on working more than six consecutive days in a week.

Several jobs are off-limits to underage workers. The list includes jobs in slaughterhouses, logging, mining, driving cars, demolition or firefighting. The complete list of prohibited professions is available on the DBPR website.

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