LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Chefs prepare ahead of the announcement of the winner of the UK's most prestigious hospitality scholarship, the Le Cordon Bleu UK Scholarship Award 2013, receiving the award from chef Pierre Koffmann at a reception at Le Cordon Bleu's Centre of Excellence in London's Bloomsbury Square. Zoe McReynolds beat entrants from all over the UK to scoop the £30,000 prize, and will now study the world-renowned Le Grand Diplome at Le Cordon Bleu before enjoying an apprenticeship with Koffmann at Le Cordon Bleu on March 27, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images For Le Cordon Bleu)

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Every election year there seems to be a lot of talk about minimum wage. Many states pay more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. One of the main arguments for abolishing the minimum wage is that it prevents younger, inexperienced workers from being able to enter the workforce and learn needed skills and gain experience.

Many people aren’t aware of the “Youth Minimum Wage” for those workers under the age of 20. These are usually high school or early college age workers who can work for less than the $7.25 per hour minimum wage. Here’s how.

Young Workers Can Work for Less Than Minimum Wage

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows employers to hire those under the age of 20 and pay them less than minimum wage for a period of time.

In 1996, Amendments to the FLSA ,now allow employers to pay a wage of not less than $4.25 per hour to employees who are under 20 years of age for 90 consecutive calendar days after the date of initial employment. The 90 days refers to calendar days not working days. It’s 90 straight days no matter how many days the employee works or doesn’t work.

Legal Restrictions

  • The law forbids releasing a full time fully employed worker and replacing that worker with a youth workers to reduce payroll.
  • The employer is also prohibited, by law, from hiring and releasing a series of youth workers to keep payroll reduced. After 90 consecutive days a youth worker must be paid no less than minimum wage.
  • If there is no state exception in your state for employees under 20 then the employer must pay the state minimum wage after the 90-day window.
    • If a youth employee reaches the age of 20 before the 90-day window he or she must be paid prevailing minimum wage.
    • A youth employee can be paid a youth wage up to 90 consecutive calendar days after initial employment with any employer, not just the first employer. This would not have any impact on either of the two or more employers. So a youth worker can hold multiple jobs at the same time with multiple 90-day windows.
    • It’s illegal to have a “revolving door” of youth workers. You are not allowed to terminate a youth employee at the end of 90 days solely to hire another youth worker to save payroll costs.
    • If the employer violates the existing employee displacement rule to hire a youth employee that displaced employee can receive back pay, reinstatement in the same or equivalent position and any healthcare or other employment related payments imposed on the employee due to the displacement.

Some Final Thoughts

For once, the feds might be thinking along the right track. This is a great way for an employer to bring in inexperienced help and take advantage of the 90 days to train and possibly develop a quality employee.

It’s great for the employee too in order to get some experience to put on their resume and for those who might not be going to college immediately after high school.

It’s a win-win deal. Check it out.

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