Fair booth works for compliance

In the Puyallup area, the Washington State Fair and Washington State Spring Fair provides students with the opportunity for an annual and short-term job.

There are several restrictions on minor labor such as age, break times and hours. Those under the age of 18 are legally allowed to work for 26 hours per week. But at the Fair, in some cases,  rules can be a little more lenient.

“I know within my responsibilities I [do not] let them hire anyone under the age of 16. I do know that not everyone follows that rule so I guess they are not terribly strict,” Balinda Sillito, who hires many youth at the Fair said. “When [Fair booths] hire people [the bosses] then see all the paperwork, the I-9’s and their W-4’s which tells their ages. I have never had anyone cheat and try to hire somebody too young. They also have to, when they hire teenagers, have school permission forms that go to the school and to the parents so we go through all the legal basis. No one has ever tried to break the [minor] rules.”

When it comes to the Fair’s monitoring and enforcing, it is not always clear whether the fair strictly enforces youth age and hour restrictions.

“I [do not] let [booths] hire anyone under the age of 16. I do know that not everyone follows that rule so I guess they are not terribly strict,”Sillito said.

Senior Terra Melanson works at the Fair annually.

“[I have worked at the Fair for] two years. Last year at Juicy’s and this year for Duris’ at the Elephant Ear stand [where] we served burgers, turkey legs and other barbequed food,” Melanson said.

Melanson commented on how strict her boss is, especially relating to hours and break times.

“My manager this year is not very strict about it but then when her boss comes along we have to be more in line with the rules,” Melanson said. “My manager normally comes to tell me [and says], ‘OK you can take your 30 [minute break] now.’ The days that I worked open to close I got two half-hour breaks. Last year they were a lot more [structured] about getting everybody their breaks. Juicy’s travels year round all around the country. They are a lot stricter about their rules.”

Commenting on how many hours she actually works,  Menalson says, “[I] only [work] weekdays I work about eight and on average I work about 60 hours a week. Last year I worked more like 70 hours a week. I worked open to close on the weekends just about every day last year.”