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Why Teens Under 18 Can’t Be Stronger Than the Storm

It’s a catchy tune. Referring to last year’s superstorm Sandy, Governor Chris Christie wants everyone to know that New Jersey is stronger than the storm. But what you might not know is that New Jersey labor law effectively prohibits young volunteers from helping rebuild our shore communities devastated by the storm.

As recently reported in USA Today, many young volunteers from church groups around the county wanted to come to New Jersey this summer to work on disaster relief efforts to rebuild Jersey shore communities. But that would violate NJ labor laws that prohibit those less than 18 years of age from coming within 30 feet of construction work.

However, the law carves out two exceptions to allow younger teens to work at construction sites:

  • Students at vocational or technical schools who are learning the building trades
  • Young volunteers working under the guidance of a non-profit agency on construction of “affordable housing” such as Habitat for Humanity projects

The Rev. Carl Wilton, Pastor of Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church, sums up his frustration with the current law in a web post: “Now, let me give you an example of how bizarrely convoluted this situation can become. Habitat for Humanity of Northern Ocean has branched out, following the storm, to deploy volunteers to do Sandy recovery work (and it’s great work they’re doing). My understanding is that, under the law, Habitat can legally welcome youth volunteers to help paint a wall on one of their regular new-housing construction projects, but if the same person were to pick up an identical paint roller in a Sandy survivor’s home, the organization could be cited for violating child labor law.”

It’s time to change the law to allow youth volunteers to help rebuild the Jersey shore.

Speak to a NJ employment attorney if you have questions about compliance with our state labor laws.

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Neil H. Deutsch
Retired

About Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for…

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Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

About Bruce L. Atkins is regarded as one of New Jersey’s premier practitioners of employment and civil litigation. He has been selected to the New Jersey Super Lawyers prestigious list every year since 2005.  This honor, bestowed upon a recipient by the votes of his peers, is a powerful nod to the skill Mr. Atkins…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt
Partner

About Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigations such as discrimination, retaliation, and whistle blowing matters.  He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for some of his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict…

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Diane Englander Peyser
Attorney

About Diane Englander Peyser joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in September 2018 where she represents employees in wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, and discrimination matters. Prior to joining Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., Diane represented clients in all aspects of employment law on behalf of employees involving unemployment appeals, claims of sexual harassment, LGBT discrimination,…

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Debra M. McGarvey
Attorney

About Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA),…

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