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Mom's upset over her son's meager camp wages

She wants to know if his employer can legally pay him $2 an hour during his eight weeks of work as a camp counselor, far below the state minimum wage.

Seasonal workers, such as those who work at

Seasonal workers, such as those who work at a summer camp, can be paid below the minimum wage. In New York State, businesses must meet eligibility requirements to be classified as seasonal. Photo Credit: Getty Images/kali9

DEAR CARRIE: My 18-year-old son worked at a day camp this past summer for eight weeks. I was shocked that the camp paid him just over $2 an hour. He did receive tips, which brought his pay up to about $5 an hour. The tips are based on guidelines set by the camp, so camp counselors know about how much to expect in the extra payments. Why aren’t employers required to supplement those amounts to bring the counselors up to at least minimum wage? My son works hard all summer, and it just doesn't seem fair that he earns so little. — Soured on Camp

DEAR SOURED: This is one of the common questions sent to Help Wanted by parents who are shocked at how little their young camp counselors are paid, especially knowing how much camps typically charge.

But a business can legally forgo paying the minimum wage — and even overtime — if it is seasonal.

So while the minimum wage on Long Island right now Is $11 an hour, a seasonal business can legally pay far below that.

The key is that the business has to be seasonal. What does that mean? Two criteria come into play.

First, the business cannot operate for more than seven months in a calendar year, federal labor laws say.

If the camp surpasses that time frame because it is performing maintenance and ordering supplies, those aren’t considered operating a business, according to federal laws.

The second criterion concerns the money the camp brings in.

If the average monthly revenue for its six slowest months doesn’t exceed 33 1/3 percent of the average for its six busiest months, then the enterprise would be considered seasonal, the laws say.

If you have any doubts about whether the business is seasonal, call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890.

In meantime, your son should shop around for a camp that pays better wages.

DEAR CARRIE: I work for a Long Island school district. During our first conference day, we were told to go back to our respective schools and complete required compliance tutorials on the computer. Unfortunately, the computers we could use were in an area where meetings were being held, and the ones we did find could be used only until our normal workday hours were up. That arrangement gave us just 1 ½ hours for work that requires 3 ½ hours.  So obviously we needed to find more time to work on the tutorials. We were then given the option to work on them during the school day, if time allowed. But working as classroom aides assigned to a student leaves us no down time during our shift. As a result, many of us finished up the work from home. Now, we are being told we will not be paid for the work, because we did it from home. Is this legal? — Illegal Homework?

DEAR ILLEGAL: It doesn’t sound legal to me. Since you are aides you are most likely hourly employees, and hourly employees have to be paid for all the time they work, whether in the office or not.

Call the number above for more information.

DEAR CARRIE: Are unemployment benefits available to part-time workers? What about disability insurance?  — Part-Time Wondering

DEAR PART-TIME: Part-timers are not excluded from those benefits, as long as they, like full-timers, meet the eligibility requirements.

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Go bit.ly/LIcampers for more on federal labor laws and summer camps. 

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