Staff Ed: Working teens should know their rights

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Staff Ed: Working teens should know their rights

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Historically, children were an unrestricted source of labor. It wasn’t uncommon for children to help their parents out with farm work, or within urban settings, go to work in factories where their small stature lended itself to work that was befitting their size but was no less dangerous. 

In addition to children suffering workplace accidents while fiddling within the smaller spaces of large machines, the opportunities for schooling were lacking when the children had to work 12+ hour shifts.

This all changed, at least in the United States, with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. While the main focus of the bill was the establishment of an 8-hour work day, 40-hour work week and minimum wage, it also included a clause that prohibited the employment of children in certain dangerous jobs. 

Additionally, children under 16 could not work in manufacturing, mining or during school hours. Overall, this was a significant win for labor and established the foundation of children’s rights within the workplace. 

According to the modern iteration of the Fair Labor Standards Act, children under 16 can only work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at most jobs in the state of Kansas. 

However, several students at Blue Valley have told their stories from their first job about working past 11 p.m. This is representative of a problem that, fortunately, has a solution — teens who decide to work need to be aware of child labor laws.

This knowledge is crucial to ensure that teens who work are not taken advantage of. They may be shorted on wages or overworked. 

For instance, according to NBC25 news, the U.S. Department of Labor found 38 Michigan businesses in violation of wage and child labor laws. 

Thankfully, there are some resources online to learn the child labor laws in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Labor website has information for children and parents, including the number of hours the child can work and the times. 

An additional resource that provides information on not only Kansas’ child labor laws, but labor laws for all 50 states, is MinimumWage.org.

Additionally, teens and laborers of all ages, should be unafraid of discussing wages. If one eschews discussing wages, workers may not notice that they are being paid less than their co-workers for the same job. Furthermore, by knowing your wages compared to those of your co-workers, it provides you with an advantage in negotiating wages. Put simply, avoiding discussing wages only benefits the employer.

Teens should be better acquainted with this information for the simple reason that having a well-educated child labor populace will allow them to make smarter decisions regarding employment, both now and in the future.