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States changing teen labor laws to alleviate worker shortage

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Posted at 9:31 AM, Jul 13, 2022

In response to a smaller workforce, a growing number of states are changing the rules for teen employment.

Michigan just became the second state after Maine to allow 17-year-olds to serve alcohol. State leaders hope this will make it easier for the hospitality industry to hire.

Laura Lawless, an employment lawyer at Squire Patton Boggs, said the measure could bolster the workforce, but it also puts more pressure on older employees.

“It adds an additional level of responsibility on supervisors and managers who may not be much older than the teens themselves to ensure that there's no unlawful use, unlawful pour,” she said.

Other states, like New Jersey, are taking more drastic measures.

During the summer, teenagers ages 16 and 17 can now work up to 50 hours a week, and 14 and 15-year-olds can now work up to 40 hours a week.

Although this could be a good way to earn money, experts say, if teens are working that schedule every week, it can hinder social development and lead to loss of sleep.

It could also have long-term consequences for the workforce.

And instead of making sure that teens are getting the opportunity to take internships in their field of work, do volunteer work service, travel, things of that nature that are going to help improve their odds of getting into the best college or technical and vocational programs and meeting their long term goals,” Lawless said, “we're going to end up creating another generation of workers that are not qualified to meet the demands of the next emerging environment.”

Overall, she believes the best way to address shortages in industries like hospitality is to meet employee demands for livable wages.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the hospitality industry has declined by 1.3 million employees since the start of the pandemic.