When people think of workplace injuries, they tend to focus on adults who are hurt on the job. The reality is that teens can and do sustained injuries while at their places of employment. According to some statistics, as many as 27,000 teens are hurt badly enough on the job to require hospitalization. Despite being minors, underage employees are also covered by workers' compensation and eligible for the same rights and benefits. However, there are certain circumstances where employers may be liable for paying additional damages to injured minors.
Double the Compensation
In most states, underage workers are entitled to double the compensation if they are injured while employed in violation of child labor laws. The type of compensation differs depending on the state. For example, Florida allows injured minors to receive double of anything they would be eligible for under workers' comp. In New Jersey, though, only benefits for death and temporary or permanent disability are doubled.
However, it's not the workers' compensation insurance provider that has to foot this bill but the employer. So a business that has a minor working for it without a work permit, for instance, will be penalized by—among other things—being made to pay the additional compensation out of its own pockets if that minor is hurt.
Filing a Claim
To make a claim for the double benefits, you must report the injury to workers' compensation as well as the agency or department in your state that handles child labor complaints. The agency and/or workers' compensation will launch an investigation into the matter and render a decision based on the facts of the case. If the employer is found to have violated the law, then either the child labor agency or workers' compensation will pursue the employer for the additional money owed.
Understanding Child Labor Laws
Child labor laws are regulated by the United States Department of Labor as well as independent agencies within the states (e.g. State of California Labor and Workforce Development Agency). Although many of the labor laws enacted at the federal and state level are the same, sometimes they differ. In these cases, the law that provides the most protection to minors is the one that takes precedence.
This means that, though a business may not be breaking federal child labor laws, the company could still be deemed to be in violation if it is breaking stricter state laws and vice versa. For instance, federal child labor laws do not require underage employees to obtain permits to work. However, many states do require teens to obtain work permits to be legally employed. While an employer would not get in trouble with the federal government for allowing a teen to work without a permit, the company could be found in violation of state child labor laws if the state does require work permits for underage workers.
Labor laws may also differ depending on the teen's age and place of employment. For instance, teens aged 14-15 cannot work more than 3 hours per day and may not be scheduled to work before 7 am or after 7pm. However, teens aged 16-17 have no such restrictions. Additionally, these rules only apply to teens working in nonagricultural jobs such as fast-food. Teens aged 14-15 who work on farms can work at any time outside of school hours as long as the job they're doing is not hazardous.
The investigators will take all of these factors into consideration when determining whether the company violated the law and double benefits are due to the injured minor. It's a good idea to consult with a workers' compensation attorney for more information to ensure your rights are protected during this process and that you get the compensation you deserve.
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