Teens Report Local Employers Violating Labor Laws

Several Tyrone High School students say that are being required to work on virtual learning days by their employers.


MacKenzie Hyde

Despite the fact that it is illegal for employers to require students to work during school hours, some local employers are asking students to work on virtual days. Note: Students agreed to be interviewed for this story under the condition that they remain anonymous because they did not want to lose their jobs. The businesses involved will not be revealed for the same reasons. However, in the interest of fairness, we would like to state that the photo used as the featured image was used to represent the community and the businesses involved are NOT in this photo.

By MacKenzie Hyde, Tyrone Area High School

Balancing work and school is a challenge for any teen, but some Tyrone High School students are more stressed than usual because a handful of local employers are taking advantage of the pandemic and the fact that students have been home more due to the high school’s hybrid schedule.

Like all TAHS students, Maddie Smith, whose name has been changed for this story because she fears getting in trouble with her employer, has been home two or three days a week since school started.

Smith has several assignments due at the end of the week and a big test coming soon, but instead of doing schoolwork, she has been putting in extra time at work during the school day.

Her employer knows that she is home two or three days a week, and has taken advantage of that fact by pressuring her to take additional hours.

Rushing to meet deadlines and feeling stressed is how Smith described balancing work and school so far this school year.

“It’s your employer. You always feel pressured to do as they say because it is your job to work for them,” said Smith.

Afraid of being fired, and unsure of her rights, Smith, and students like her are having a hard time keeping up with the demands of school and work.

“Several students brought to my attention that they are working on their virtual learning days. While I understand the need for employees, education comes first,” said Tyrone High School social studies teacher Cummins McNitt.

What these local employers either don’t know or are ignoring, is that this practice is illegal.

Pennsylvania state law mandates that workers ages 14 to 17 can only work during school hours with permission from school authorities, and only for two consecutive days.

The law also states that students under 18 may not work in excess of eight hours in any 24-hour period.

Despite this, many students have reported being scheduled for more days and hours than the law allows.

According to Tyrone High School officials, not one local employer has asked permission from the school for their student employees to work on virtual learning days.

“As far as I know the school hasn’t been contacted by any local businesses,” said Tyrone Area High School principal Thomas Yoder.

Students interviewed for this story are not quoted by name because they did not want to reveal their names or their places of employment. All students interviewed are TAHS students and work for local employers.

Another Tyrone student interviewed also feels obligated to accept work hours during the school day on days that he is home and expected to do online school work.

“They would schedule me sometimes Monday through Friday because they assumed we no longer had a ton of schoolwork to do,” a student said.

The hybrid schedule may confuse employers who aren’t experiencing it themselves, but it doesn’t mean that the students are doing any less school work than usual.

Several students told the Eagle Eye that they reminded their employers that virtual days are still considered school days, but that has not stopped them from scheduling them to work during “virtual” school hours.

The hybrid schedule means there is less normal face-to-face teaching and communication time with teachers. To be successful, students need to be able to focus on their school work when at home.

“We are already seeing that many students do not complete their school work on virtual days,” said Yoder.

Students need to develop a new routine that is effective, and their employers should not be making it more difficult for students.

“While I understand that businesses are desperately looking for employees, I think it is unfair to expect high school students to work full time. It puts students in a difficult position,” Yoder said.

Employers have to recognize that this is a new obstacle for everyone and should be sensitive and aware of the situation before them.

“Your employer needs to know you’re a student first and they should have known that when they hired you,” said another Tyrone High School student.

This story was originally published on Tyrone Eagle Eye News on October 15, 2020.