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Schools Employing Teens

Just before the onslaught of COVID-19, I was asked about the legality of schools employing teenagers to perform various tasks such as office work or lawn maintenance. Now that summer break has begun and many of our kids (mine included) are without their usual activities, it might be helpful to review the types of work schools can and cannot ask their teenage workers to undertake.

Oklahoma law says that children under the age of sixteen can’t be employed in any occupation or establishment other than those allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A guidance summary of child labor under FLSA yields more specific information. For example, a school may employ a 14- or 15-year-old to do office work (so long as a ladder is not involved), cleaning, kitchen work or maintenance (so long as power equipment is not involved). Anything not on the list is considered forbidden to that age group. A link to that guidance document may be found here.

There have likely been some unwitting violations of this law over the years, with teens under age 16 climbing ladders or running leaf blowers on school premises. In the event you’re considering hiring any students to work for your school, it’s a good idea to refer back to the document to ensure you’re in compliance. 

Need guidance? Please contact me to discuss.

Terri Thomas

Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC. Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS).

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