Part 4 of our advice for new adults series |

Part 4 of our advice for new adults series

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

In this part of this series about the legal rights and responsibilities of those turning 18, we train our lights on work and taxes. As with most aspects of turning 18, and being considered an adult for at least the majority of purposes, work and taxes have their up ” and most decidedly down ” sides.

As we’ve discussed previously, 18 is the borderline between childhood and adulthood. In most respects, your legal obligations and liabilities are those of an adult but you are yet not fully invested with every privilege that adulthood brings. The right to drink intoxicating beverages which is withheld to the age of 21 for example.

As mentioned before, this series is intended to be general and is intended to summarize the law generally through the United States and to emphasize what is common in most jurisdictions.

At 18, you no longer need a special work permit to get a job. Neither, however, do the child labor laws continue to protect you against exploitation. Nonetheless, you continue to have certain rights as an employee and are held to certain

responsibilities. In most cases, for example, you must be paid at least the minimum wage. Too, with some discrete exceptions, your employer must provide you with regular breaks, pay you overtime for work beyond your normal hours of responsibility, pay worker’s compensation insurance and unemployment on your behalf, and abide by certain workplace laws and regulations.

‘Work contracts’

A work contract may be oral or written. While you can ask for a written employment

agreement, or may be asked to sign one, most employment agreements are oral. Jobs, like life, generally come without warranties. There is no guarantee, no matter how good a job you do or how valuable you are to your employer, that you will keep your job. With few exceptions, an employer can dismiss an employee without providing any reason. You can be fired for any reason or no reason as long as it’s not for the wrong reason (for example, discrimination based upon race, creed, origin, marital status, age or disability).

You may not be sexually harassed in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of illegal discrimination and is prohibited by federal and state laws. Unwelcome sexual behavior by a supervisor, co-worker or client can amount to sexual harassment. This may include inappropriate touching, suggestive sexual comments and/or pressure for sexual favors.

If you experience discrimination in the workplace ” including sexual discrimination – you can contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office.

Payroll deductions

Your employer can deduct certain amounts from your paycheck. These include: federal, state and local tax withholdings; union dues (if any); any losses caused by your dishonesty, willful misconduct or gross negligence; and any specific deductions that you previously gave written authorization for the employer to make (such as retirement contribution withholdings).

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA, is the formal name for Social Security. FICA is a payroll tax that provides retirement, disability and death benefits to workers. The employee pays half the premium and the employer pays the other half. FICA is non-elective; in other words, you cannot opt out of it and choose not to pay. For most U.S. citizens, FICA is collected based upon your Social Security number.

Your employer is required to report your wages to the Internal Revenue Service, the agency that collects federal taxes. You will still have to file your own state and federal tax returns which, for most folks, is due on April 15 each year. If you overpaid your taxes during the year, you will get a refund. If you underpaid them, you will likely owe the government a check with your return. If you earn income in more than one state, you may owe state taxes in each such state in addition to your federal taxes.

Worker’s compensation insurance is insurance, paid for by employers, that provides compensation and medical benefits to workers who are injured on the job. Such insurance is also intended to cover workers who develop occupational diseases caused by their employment. It is not intended to replace a worker’s personal insurance. By law, employers must carry worker’s compensation insurance in an amount dictated by law. “Injured on the job” may, at times, be expansively interpreted and can include travel on account of work. You do not necessarily have to be injured at the usual place of your employment to be covered by worker’s compensation insurance as long as you were performing job-related services.

In the fifth part of this series, we will visit issues of sex, marriage and partnership.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. Robbins lectures for Continuing Legal Education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address:

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