Youth Wage

Youth Wage

Two weeks ago, I answered a reader who had questions about the employment rules that might apply to her 14 year-old who  landed a part-time job  in a power-washing  business. 

I explained the  limitations on the number of hours allowed by our current law covering minor workers.  I also explained  why I didn’t think a 14 year-old would be allowed to operate a power-washer, since the law clearly states that that minors may not be employed in “the operation or tending of any power-driven machinery”.

Although I felt bad nixing the kid’s job prospects as a power-washer, I did want to offer an alternative for this parent to pass on to the employer. This alternative  can be used by those that want to hire young workers, but don’t want to break the bank.  This is a little-known and seldom-used option called the youth wage, which allows someone to pay only $4.25/hr to an employee under age 20 .

This is perfectly legal and allowed under a 1996 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act , more familiarly known as the “wage and hour” law.

Is there a catch?  Of course, there are a couple, but they are totally reasonable.

1)      You can only pay this low youth wage for the first 90 days.  These are calendar days, NOT work days.  So the youth wage is not meant to be a continued source of cheap labor, and the 90 day period (the length of a summer) is intended to limit how long the employer can use this option.

2)      You can’t hire a kid at $4.25/hr if doing so displaces a regular employee.  The intention here was to prevent unscrupulous employers from firing others to hire cheap labor. “Displacement” can mean many things  (just ask an engineer) but  in this context it means not just firing a regular employee but cutting  hours, or lowering wages.

So employers, next time you think about hiring a young worker but are concerned that their limited skills don’t justify  regular minimum wage ($8.10 in Florida) remember, you can hire youth at a discount.  For up to three months.  They pick up some skills and make a few bucks, and you get some help with your business.  And everybody wins.


©Copyright Eva Del Rio

Eva Del Rio is creator of HR Box™ – tools for small businesses and startups. Send questions to


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