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Child Labor: Youth Minimum Wage

School & Work

This article tells how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards in the private sector and in federal, state and local governments. This article was written by the United State Department of Labor.

What is the youth minimum wage?

The youth minimum wage is authorized by Section 6(g) of the FLSA, as amended by the 1996 FLSA Amendments. The law allows employers to pay employees under 20 years of age a lower wage for a limited period -- 90 calendar days, not work days -- after they are first employed. Any wage rate above $4.25 an hour may be paid to eligible workers during this 90-day period.

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Who may be paid the youth minimum wage?

Only employees under 20 years old may be paid the youth minimum wage and only during the first 90 consecutive calendar days after initial employment by their employer.

Which employers may use the youth minimum wage?

All employers covered by the FLSA may pay eligible employees the youth minimum wage, unless prohibited by state or local law. Where a state or local law requires payment of a minimum wage higher than $4.25 an hour and makes no exception for employees under age 20, the higher state or local minimum wage standard would apply.

When does the 90-day eligibility period start and end?

The eligibility period runs for 90 consecutive calendar days beginning with the first day of work for an employer. It does not matter when the job offer was made or accepted (or when the employee was considered "hired"). The 90-day period starts with (and includes) the first day of work for the employer. The 90-day period is counted as consecutive days on the calendar, not days of work. It does not matter how many days during this period the youth actually performs any work.

What happens if an employee reaches 20 years of age before he or she has worked the full 90-day eligibility period for the employer? Can the employee still be paid the youth wage for the full 90-day period?

No. Eligible employees may be paid the youth wage up to the day before their 20th birthday. On and after their 20th birthday, their pay must be raised to no less than the applicable minimum wage.

What impact does a break in service have on counting the first "90 consecutive calendar days" after initial employment by an employer?

A break in service does not affect the calculation of the 90-day period of eligibility. In other words, the 90-calendar-day period continues to run even if the employee comes off the payroll during the 90 days. For example, if a student initially works for an employer over a 60-calendar-day period in the summer and then quits to return to school, the 90-day eligibility period ends for this employee with this employer 30 days after he/she quits (i.e., 90 consecutive calendar days after initial employment). If this student were to return later to work again for this same employer, the period of eligibility for the youth wage will have already expired.

May an employee be paid the youth wage by more than one employer?

Yes. A youth under 20 may be paid the youth wage for up to 90 consecutive calendar days after initial employment with any employer, not just the first employer. While an employee is "initially employed" only once by any employer, an employee may be "initially employed" by more than one employer. The fact that an eligible youth may be employed simultaneously by more than one employer (unrelated to each other) does not impact either employer's right to pay the youth wage.

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