Schools Help Students Navigate Employment Laws

By: Brian Zimmerman, Staff Writer

Most teens need permit to work

June 1, 2008

Indiana puts restrictions on employers who hire job-hungry teenagers, and area schools expect those workers to maintain academic standards and attendance as they work.

Richmond High School students are required to obtain a work permit before they report to work while maintaining a 95 percent attendance rate and at least a C average on their report cards.

"If they meet those then we make them a work permit," said Tomi Amburgey, a Richmond High School teacher and volunteer in the school's career center. "If they don't meet those, we put them on weekends only. Very rarely do we not give somebody a work permit."

At RHS, the career center issues permits during lunch every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. More than 200 students applied for permits this year, Amburgey said.

"Now that we're getting near summer, a lot of kids want summer jobs," she said. "We get real busy around Christmas, because they want to work during Christmas."

All students under 18 need a work permit before they can punch a time clock. Students 18 or older, or those with a General Equivalency Diploma do not. Neither do high school graduates younger than 18.

Permits can be obtained after the employer, employee and parent sign an "intent to employ" form, which is issued by the employer. The employee's official birth certificate -- with the raised stamped seal -- must be brought to the career center or the high school issuing the permit. The process is completed electronically.

Career center offers help

RHS' career center also is a resource for students looking for work. RHS senior Megan Wesler isn't sure she would have a job without Amburgey's help.

"I was a little picky," Wesler said. "I didn't want to just go apply at McDonald's. I've applied at four different places, and Bob Evans was the first place to call me back."

Even though Wesler is one of RHS' eight valedictorians, it was tough getting Bob Evans' attention.

"I hadn't heard anything (from Bob Evans) for about a week and a half," she said. "I got a call one night. ... Mrs. Amburgey had gone to Bob Evans and was speaking with one of the managers there and mentioned my name. The next morning I called and I had a job."

The center also tries to keep students focused on their schoolwork -- while they make money.

"I can pull their grades at any time -- or their attendance," Amburgey said. "We don't often revoke work permits, but we have."

On-site training

Most high school students don't receive formal tips for success before applying for a summer job although area schools do offer job training in some classrooms.

RHS' career center offers three co-op classes -- marketing, business technology and interdisciplinary cooperative education -- to their students and Northeastern and Randolph Southern students. About 60 to 85 seniors participate in those classes annually by attending school half day and working in a job field the other half, said Rusty Hensley, the career center's director.

"The three co-op programs, all three teachers would work in the capacity of going over resumes, interviews and dressing for success," Hensley said.

The bulk of students go into their first job interviews without much experience in getting a job. Most students are hired at minimum-wage jobs.

"They do the swimming pools (jobs), Marsh (supermarket), a lot of the restaurants, but McDonald's is the biggest one," said Gretchen Bane, an attendance clerk who issues work permits at Centerville High School.

Wesler has worked every summer of her high school career at a pool.

"I just like to know that I'm working for myself," Wesler said. "I don't like depending on my parents."