If you have a teen who works part-time during the school year and/or as many hours as they can get during their school breaks, you need to understand (as do they) their rights in the workplace. They have the same rights as adult employees as well as further protections regarding how much they can work, depending on their specific age.
They also have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer a work-related injury or illness. Just about all New Jersey employers are required to have workers’ comp coverage.
Even if their employer was violating New Jersey child labor laws in some way (for example, in the hours the teen was working or the type of work they were doing) when they were injured, the teen still qualifies for workers’ comp. In fact, they may be entitled to added benefits.
Why are teens more likely to be injured than older workers?
If your teen is working in a restaurant, store or movie theater, you might not consider their job risky. However, teens and young adults (under 25) have twice the rate of workplace injuries as their older co-workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Why is that?
They usually work part-time or seasonally, so they often don’t receive as much safety training as full-time employees (even though they should). Further, they’re generally not as experienced with equipment (even things like kitchen equipment in a restaurant) as full-time employees.
They often offer or agree to do things that older workers resist — like climbing on tall ladders, cleaning up spills or emptying the trash. They may be less willing to ask for help or even someone to “spot” them while they climb.
Be sure your teen knows their rights
Unfortunately, some employers take advantage of young workers who often don’t know their rights or who are afraid to assert them. Be sure they know they have the right to seek workers’ comp to cover medical treatment, replace some lost wages and more if they are injured or develop a medical condition due to their work. That’s true in most cases even if they were at fault.
Employers can’t retaliate against them by firing them, cutting their hours (unless they can’t work due to their condition) or in any other way for seeking workers’ comp. If your teen is having difficulty applying for or getting the benefits to which they’re entitled, having legal guidance can help.