What Every Teen Needs To Know About Getting Paid At Work


I wrote last week about general workplace rights teens and young adults need to know. And two weeks ago I wrote about workplace sexual harassment. But there’s even more you probably didn’t learn about work when you were in school. I bet your high school and college didn’t tell you about what you’re entitled to be paid under the law, what hours you’re allowed to work, how to figure out if your internship should be paid, and allowable work breaks, did they?

If you’re a teen or young adult starting or looking for a summer job or internship, getting paid (or getting a meaningful learning experience) is one of the most important things. Otherwise, you could be at the beach or ziplining. If you’re a parent, friend, guardian or relative of someone entering the workforce for the first time, make sure they know their rights on getting paid. Otherwise, they’ll be hitting you up for funds, right? No worries. Here’s what you need to know about teen and young adult wages, hours, unpaid internships and breaks:

Minimum Wage: Employers have to pay you a minimum hourly rate for your work called minimum wage. Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. However, there is something called the youth minimum wage, which means that for the first 90 calendar days of any new job you can be paid as little as $4.25 per hour if you are under 20State minimum wages may be higher. Tipped employees may be paid a minimum wage of $2.13/hour as long as their wages including tips equal at least the higher of the state and federal minimum wage. State minimum wages for tipped employees vary. For more on wages, check out my articles 10 Tricks Employers Use To Cheat Workers Out Of Overtime and Ask Donna: Answers to AOL Jobs Reader Questions On Wages and Overtime.

Internships: While many teens take unpaid internships for the summer, most employers get internships wrong. If your internship is not a real learning experience, then you probably have to be paid for your work. An internship is supposed to be training similar to that you would receive in a vocational school. Filing, stuffing envelopes, and answering phones should normally be paid. You should be getting training that benefits you, and you should be getting more benefit than the company. If they can make money off what you’re doing, or if you’re saving them from having to pay another employee, you probably have to be paid. For more on internships, check out my article Unpaid Interns: Learning Experience or Illegal Exploitation?

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