Businesses continue to exploit minors, even today

This story was originally published in the first edition of The Lion’s Tale (October 7th, 2021).

Oviedo’s population has been slowly and steadily increasing over the past few years. When a town like Oviedo starts to grow, businesses move in to grab some cash, and provide services to the locals. A business can’t just pop up like a fair, instead they need to purchase properties, allocate funds and most importantly, hire workers.

For fast food chains and other local or similar businesses, hiring minors is effective for less skilled jobs. It makes sense because teens usually don’t have a two year degree, and are always looking for a way to make income. One downside to hiring minors is there are laws and regulations on their work: the amount of hours, break times, positions, etc. In example, a minor cannot work
over 4 hours without getting a break, and you must be 16 to work in the kitchen. With these restrictions, employers need to be careful or they would be at risk of losing their job and even jeopardizing the business; however, that doesn’t stop it from happening.

In an interview with a student who wishes to remain anonymous, several questions were asked about the conduct of their businesses, and more specifically, the employers. When asked about time management, they shared, “…every four hours as a minor you have to get breaks and stuff. I’d go my entire day, ten hour shifts, no break whatsoev- er,” and also stated “…one pay period, I worked 100 hours, which isn’t like, okay, or legal.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Florida says that “minors may work no more than 4 consecutive hours without a 30 minute uninterrupted break” as well as a max of 40 hours a week. If you work out the math for a bi-weekly pay period, eighty does not equal one hundred.

Then when asked if they believe they were treated fairly, they add- ed, “No, because I got paid the same amount as the kid that just, like, sat there… and like throwing stuff in the back while I was sitting there, she basically had me trained to be her mini manager.”

They also added that they would operate machinery and work on prepping foods, which is illegal if they are 14-15 years old (FLSA). And at this time, they were. “…I wasn’t allowed to operate some of the machinery and stuff ‘cause I was under age or like, not tall enough and stuff. And I would get burnt like a lot.”

It is not only required, but should be a priority of the business to protect their workers. It’s important to be fair as a business no matter the circumstances. There are people who quit well paying jobs because they can’t handle the stresses or environment that they work in. It comes as no surprise that someone would be willing to quit an entry level job due to the environment created around it. It’s awful to hear these sort of occurrences, especially in Oviedo.

Minors need their rights protected more than anything, and overworking or inappropriate placement is serious trouble. There’s a reason why minor protection laws are instituted- because they’re considered important.