New Jersey law expands summer working hours for teenagers

A ''Help Wanted'' sign is seen at a business on the Wildwood boardwalk.

A ''Help Wanted'' sign is seen at a business on the Wildwood boardwalk. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Teenagers in New Jersey can now work longer hours during the summer thanks to a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The new regulations make permanent a 2021 law which expanded summer working hours for residents between 16 and 18 years old to up to 50 hours per week.

It also increased working hours for 14- to 15 year-olds to mirror federal child labor laws.

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That means 14- to 15 year-olds can work up to 40 hours per week during the summer and other non-school weeks, up to three hours on a school day, up to eight hours on a non-school day, and up to 18 hours during a school week.

Under the law, younger teens are also allowed to work until 9 p.m. during the summer.

New Jersey teenagers and businesses lauded the new provisions.

“I think now, especially, during this time, where everything I feel revolves around money, whether you want to go places, or you want to buy new clothes … a lot of it revolves around money,” said Chris-Tina Middlebrooks, a 16-year old student in Burlington County. “It might benefit you more, if you’re supporting a family member, like your mother, or if you’re coming from a single family household, if you’re helping to support.”

Some teenagers, however, said the new regulations could potentially lead to employers taking advantage of them.

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“I feel like the downside is that if the boss asks them if they can work overtime, they’re afraid to say no because they think they might get fired,” said Quays Ali, a high school student in Cherry Hill.

The law also eliminates the requirement for young residents to obtain working papers from their respective school districts, instead requiring the state to develop an electronic database where minors can register to work.

Approved registration will be in effect until the minor becomes an adult.

t a June 9 Assembly Labor Committee hearing on the legislation, Denise Beckson, Morey’s Pier and Beachfront Water Parks vice president of human resources and government relations, supported the new regulations, calling New Jersey’s former child labor laws “antiquated.”

“New Jersey is one of only 15 states that require working papers for 16- to 17-year-olds. The process isn’t just antiquated but ineffective. It doesn’t affect the health, safety, and welfare of minors,” Beckson said.

“Many businesses prefer not to hire minors, finding the process too cumbersome and the prohibitions too limiting,” Beckson added.

The changes to New Jersey’s child labor protections comes as employers continue to experience a national labor shortage hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. has more than 11 million job openings and only 4.6 million unemployed workers.

State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) sponsored the legislation and said it aims to shore up the gap in employment.

“We got a huge shortage. And a lot of kids are working at restaurants and amusement parks and places like that. And this just gives them more tools if the kid chooses to want to work or work more during the summer,” Gopal said.

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