As the season for summer jobs nears, Labor and Industries advises young workers in Washington to be aware of their rights – FOX 28 Spokane

A group of diverse young workers of various ethnicities in casual summer work attire, gathering around a large, open book titled 'Worker's Rights in Washington', in a sunny, lush park setting, with ic

Understanding Your Rights: A Guide for Young Workers in Washington

As summer approaches, the promise of seasonal jobs holds excitement and opportunities for young workers. In light of this, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) in Washington State is stepping up to remind these young employees about the essential rights and protections available to them. This guide seeks to empower and educate young workers, ensuring they are both safe and fairly treated in the workplace.

Know Your Work Permit Requirements

In Washington State, minors who are looking to join the workforce must first obtain a work permit. Generally, this is coordinated through educational institutions, and it’s a crucial first step before commencing any job. The work permit ensures that the job is suitable for the age of the minor and complies with state labor laws.

Understand Employment Age Restrictions

The legal working age in Washington is governed by specific regulations intended to balance work and education while ensuring the safety of minors. Different rules apply depending on one’s age:

  • Under 14: Employment is generally not permitted except in certain roles like newspaper delivery or entertainment.
  • 14-15 years: Allowed to work in a variety of non-hazardous roles, but with limited hours especially during the school year.
  • 16-17 years: Fewer restrictions compared to younger teens, but still protected from hazardous occupations.

Be Aware of Hour Restrictions

Hour limitations are crucial for balancing work with education and health, especially during the school year. For young workers, Washington enforces specific rules:

  • During School: No more than 3 hours on a school day and 18 hours in a school week for 14-15-year-olds; 16-17-year-olds may work up to 28 hours in a school week.
  • During Summer: These limits increase substantially, allowing more flexibility for earning during school breaks.

Safety on the Job

Safety is a paramount concern, especially for young workers who might be in the workforce for the first time. Employers in Washington are required to provide necessary training and safety gear. Furthermore, there are stringent prohibitions against employing minors in high-risk or hazardous areas.

Minimum Wage and Overtime

All workers in Washington, regardless of age, are entitled to the minimum wage. As of 2023, the state minimum wage is $14.49 per hour. Moreover, workers, including young employees, covered under state law must receive 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for any hours worked over 40 in a week.

Protection Against Discrimination and Harassment

Young workers are protected under the same anti-discrimination laws that safeguard adult workers. This means it is illegal for an employer to discriminate based on age, race, sex, religion, or disability. Additionally, workplace harassment, whether from supervisors or co-workers, is illegal and can be reported to L&I or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Seeking Help and Reporting Violations

If you believe your rights are being violated, or you are working under unsafe conditions, it is vital to speak up. Workers can confidentially report any violations to Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries. Their staff can guide through the process of filing a complaint and further investigation.

With the summer job season nearing, this knowledge of their fundamental rights is crucial for young workers in Washington. Being aware of these rights not only ensures a safer and more equitable work environment but also empowers young people to become proactive in their part-time or summer employment experiences.

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