- Michigan and New Jersey have loosened labor laws for teens to mitigate the reported talent shortage.
- Michigan’s governor July 11 signed a bill permitting self-serve alcohol in bars and restaurants; one lawmaker told local media the measure was driven in part by the labor shortage. Just a few weeks earlier, the governor also signed into law a bill allowing teens to handle alcohol in wholesale settings.
- New Jersey’s governor July 5 signed a bill expanding permitted working hours for teens, allowing some to work more than 40 hours per week, among other provisions.
Employers in retail and hospitality have long turned to automated or self-serve options to lower labor costs. Self-order and self-checkout options, for example, have been ubiquitous in big-name grocers, drug stores and quick-service restaurants for years.
But amid a tight labor market that appears to span nearly every industry, legislators seem to be turning to creative solutions, and some say teen workers are an important piece of the puzzle.
Employers will have to exercise caution, however, ensuring they comply with applicable federal, state and local laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act, for example, has its own requirements for child labor, limiting the hours teens can work and the duties they can perform.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division enforces those limits, and has announced a variety of such enforcement actions in recent weeks. A Bojangles franchisee was assessed a civil penalty, WHD announced June 29, after the agency determined the employer allowed minors to work outside of permitted hours while school was in session. And the day before, WHD said Jersey Mike’s Subs agreed to pay more than $24,000 in penalties to resolve claims it allowed 14- and 15-year-old workers to work beyond and outside hours permitted by child labor laws.