The Centers for Disease Control report that approximately 60,000 teenagers ages 15-17 are injured at work each year so severely that they must visit the emergency room. In North Carolina, the minimum age to work is 14, but can be even younger under certain circumstances. Teenagers don't necessarily need to work in a hazardous or dangerous job in order to suffer a work injury. Just like adults, work-related injuries and illnesses can happen in any work environment.
What should a teenager do if they are hurt at work? Just as an adult would do, medical treatment should be sought and the incident needs to be reported to a manager. A teenager should also alert their parent or guardian of the work-related injury.
It's important to review if the employer violated any rules or regulations. The Fair Labor Standards Act, an important piece of legislation initially passed into law in 2009, provides that "children under 14 years of age may not be employed in non-agricultural occupations covered by the FLSA. Permissible employment for such children is limited to work that is exempt from the FLSA (such as delivering newspapers to the consumer and acting). Children may also perform work not covered by the FLSA such as completing minor chores around private homes or casual baby-sitting." Federal law does not permit individuals ages 14 and 15 to work in hazardous jobs or those in manufacturing. However, the North Carolina Department of Labor has provisions that include exemptions: "Governmental, agricultural and domestic employers are totally exempt from the North Carolina youth employment provisions, including the requirement to obtain a North Carolina work permit for youths under 18." Aside from provisions like these, the employer might be responsible for providing proper safety gear, equipment, or training - depending on the type of work the teenager's job requires.
Young worker injuries might not only affect the teen's ability to work and earn wages, they could cause missed school work, high medical bills for treatment and ongoing care, and could cause permanent physical damage since teenagers' bodies are still developing. There are many variables in work injury claims. Generally, teen workers are covered by the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, regardless if their employment was temporary or part-time. The teenager might be eligible for workers' comp benefits that could cover the cost of an at-home tutor during injury recovery, home modifications, medical treatments for the work injury, and more.
Just as some adult workers might experience, teenagers and their parents or guardians should understand that not all injuries are covered under workers' comp. Thinking that an accident or injury at work should be ignored or tolerated is not a solution, individuals should do their due diligence and seek a North Carolina workers' compensation attorney's counsel. A complimentary case evaluation by one of our attorneys could help an individual move forward in their recovery and understand the legal rights they are entitled to under North Carolina workers' comp regulations.