Workers under 16 deserve minimum wage

December 20, 2019

It is common knowledge that, once a worker turns sixteen, they must be paid minimum wage, which, in 2019, is nine dollars per hour. However, on the account of national law, this is a complete misconception. 


On October 7, 2019, the Fair Labor Standards Act was introduced by the U.S. Department of Labor. Nationally, employees under the age of twenty may legally be paid nearly half ($4.25 USD per hour) of the current minimum wage ($7.25 USD per hour) for ninety days, if they are not bonded by contradicting state laws. 

 After those ninety days, or when the employee reaches the age of twenty, the employer legally has to provide minimum wage. Nationally, the age of sixteen was never mentioned.   

However, it is federal law that employers cannot intentionally hire younger workers rather than older workers, in order to pay them less than minimum wage for an extended period of time. These exceptions to workers requiring minimum wage include: full-time students (said younger workers), apprentices, and workers with disabilities. These groups of individuals are referred to as the “sub-minimum wage.” 

In Nebraska, things tend to differ, and they do. Nebraska’s current minimum wage is $9 USD per hour. They decided to abandon the federal minimum on January 1, 2016.  

Again, the age of sixteen was never mentioned. Nebraska varies slightly from the federal law. On the topic of age, Nebraska legislation feels it is appropriate that workers under the age of twenty must be paid 75% of minimum wage until their first ninety days of work are complete. After that, if the worker is above the age of fourteen, they must be paid the full $9 USD per hour. 

 Additionally, workers that are 14-15 years of age are not permitted to exceed eight working hours per day. They also cannot report to work before 6am or after 10pm. 

This huge folklore of employers being allowed to pay workers under the age of sixteen whatever they please is based on nothing but oral tradition. Although, some businesses have been known to stick to that “law” without providing further evidence to support it. This is considered a federal offense, along with a state offense in Nebraska. 

Minimum wage is not only law, it is a pure reflection of an employer’s morals.  




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