Interview Do's and Don'ts and Changes in State Laws Affecting Teens
By Lori Lovely September 23, 2023
Hiring the right staff is critical to a rink’s success, but the process can be formidable. Given regulations in accordance with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, knowing what not to ask can be as important as knowing what to ask a job candidate.
Appropriate questions to ask during a job interview include:
- What is your past job experience? This question lets you determine if they have the knowledge and potential to fulfill the role successfully. It’s also an opportunity to judge character by seeing what they say about past employers.
- Why are you leaving your current job? Because rink owners often hire teenagers, not all candidates are leaving a past job. They may be looking for summer work, or it could be their first job.
- What skills do you bring? The answer will tell you if the candidate understands the job and has done any homework about your rink.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? This question allows you to gauge their ability to identify opportunities for self-improvement and enables you to recognize leadership potential.
- What is a challenge you’ve faced? This question identifies problem-solving skills and how they react under pressure.
- Why do you want this job? This question lets you know what expectations a candidate has in order to determine if the job is a good fit.
- How would your boss or co-workers describe you? Don’t expect overtly negative responses, but there could be clues in their answers as to whether they would fit in with the culture at your rink.
- Why should I hire you? This question allows the candidate to showcase their skills and experience as they pertain to the job in question – or not.
Questions you aren’t allowed to ask during an interview:
- What is your current salary? Due to the disparity in wages for men and women, the answer to this question could result in discrimination. It’s better to set the wage for the position, regardless of who gets the job.
- Do you have/do you plan to have children? Making a hiring decision on the basis of a candidate having children or not is discriminatory and can lead to a lawsuit. Variations include: Have you made childcare arrangements? How old are your children? Are there any reasons you might miss work?
- What is your ethnicity/race? This question is illegal. Be careful about asking seemingly innocent questions that lead down the same path, such as: Where are your parents from? Where did you live while growing up? Where is your accent from?
- Are you married? Not only is this question illegal, but it is irrelevant to the job. Other versions include: Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend? What is your sexual orientation? What does your spouse do for a living? Are you engaged?
- Have you ever been arrested? An employer can ask a candidate if they have ever been convicted of a crime but not if they have been arrested.
- What is your religion? If the job requires an employee to work on their days of worship, it may be necessary to know for scheduling purposes, but the question cannot be framed in terms of religion – only scheduling.
- Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 and the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996, employers cannot ask questions about credit scores, bank accounts, or prior bankruptcy status.
- Were you discharged from the military? Military status is a federally protected class, so questions about service, potential deployment, and discharge are illegal.
- Have you ever had a workplace injury or filed a worker’s compensation claim? Questions about past injuries are illegal, and an employer can only ask if the applicant can fulfill the physical requirements of the job.
- Do you have a disability? It’s illegal to ask about a candidate’s medical history or any medications they use. Again, an employer can only ask if the applicant can fulfill the physical requirements of the job. Similar illegal questions include: Do you take any prescription drugs? Do you have any pre-existing health conditions?
In summary, everyone has the right to work free from discrimination. Employers are not allowed to make job decisions based on race, ethnicity, national origin, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information (which includes information about any diseases), age, or disability. Job decisions include hiring, firing, training, promotions, wages, and benefits.
Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act broadly defines disabilities as any physical or mental condition that limits activities such as walking, talking, hearing, or learning. The impairment can be permanent, temporary, or transitory.
Employers must provide reasonable accommodation to allow disabled persons to perform their work – even if there’s some cost involved – as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship to the business.
During the interview, employers cannot ask if the applicant has a disability and cannot require a physical exam. However, the employer can ask if the candidate can perform the duties of the job or how they would, either with or without accommodation.
If the applicant is hired, the employer is required to keep all medical records and information in a separate file to maintain confidentiality.
Rules and restrictions for young employees
The Department of Labor has strict rules regarding youth workers.
- Under age 14: Unless they’re the rink owner’s children, this age group is restricted to a few specific jobs, such as paper routes, babysitting, or acting.
- Age 14-15: This age group can work a wider range of jobs but is limited on hours they may work. Federal guidelines restrict them to three hours on school days and 18 hours per week during the school term or 40 hours during school breaks. They’re not allowed to work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., although nighttime hours are extended to 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day.
- Age 16-17: These employees can work unlimited hours in almost any job as long as it hasn’t been deemed hazardous by the Bureau of Labor – which includes mining and working with explosives and certain power-driven machinery.
- Age 18 or older: These employees can work any hours in any profession.
- Federal law does not require employers to give breaks or lunch, but if a break of 5 to 20 minutes is given, it is considered paid time. Lunch breaks of 30 minutes or more are typically “off the clock” – i.e., uncompensated time. Rules for teens are different state by state.
Please make note that these are federal guidelines. Individual states may have additional restrictions and regulations regarding youth workers, hiring practices, and discrimination. For example, in the state of Indiana, Indiana employers must provide a 30-minute lunch to teens under the age of 18 who are scheduled to work six or more consecutive hours. The law requires a break between their third and fifth hour of work. However, this law exempts camps, health education, or sectarian-related activities, nonprofit entity, farm laborers, domestic services, golf caddies, newspaper carriers, or high school graduates, or teens who have withdrawn from school.
Changes in state laws affecting teen workers
Be sure to consult your local and state laws. Several states are shifting various laws that affect teen workers, so make sure to check to see if any laws may be changing in your state. Here are a few most recent laws that have passed, introduced or have been proposed.
- Arkansas: Eliminated age verification and parent/guardian permission requirements. (Enacted 2023)
- Iowa: Lifts restrictions on hazardous work, lowers the age for alcohol service, extends work hours, grants employer immunity from civil liability for workplace injuries, illness, and death (Introduced 2023)
- Iowa: Lowers minimum age of childcare workers; increased staff-to-child ratios (Enacted 2022)
- Minnesota: Lifts restrictions on hazardous work (Introduced 2023)
- Minnesota: Extends work hours (Introduced 2023)
- Missouri: Extends work hours (Introduced; postponed 2023)
- Nebraska: Subminimum wage for youth (Introduced 2023)
- New Hampshire: Lowers age to bus tables where alcohol is served; extends work hours (Enacted 2022)
- New Jersey: Extends work hours; increases the time before a break (Enacted 2022)
- Ohio: Extends work hours (Passed in the senate, 2023)
- South Dakota: Extends work hours (Introduced; withdrawn 2023)
- Wisconsin: Extends work hours (Passed house/senate; vetoed by governor 2021-2022)
Lori is an award-winning syndicated writer, editor and photographer whose byline has appeared in a wide range of local, national and international publications. A recipient of the 1999 AIDServe Superstar Award, Lovely is a long-standing PETA member and was a 25-year member of CARA Charities. She runs Montrose Farms where she raises alpacas and chickens. Lori can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo credit: istockphoto, DMEPhotography
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