I am in my first year of teaching at a local public high school. One of my students, age 16, asked me for a work permit so she can wait tables this summer. School will not even be in session over the summer. Why is she asking me? What should I do?


In California, minors generally must obtain a work permit from their school before an employer is permitted to employ them, even during breaks. Minors who are 16 and older can obtain full-time work permits, with certain restrictions. Work permits are not required for some jobs like babysitting, yard work, and newspaper delivery. They are required for most other jobs, such as the restaurant position your student is seeking.

You should pass along your student’s request to your principal, superintendent, or another school administrator. California’s policy is that school officials who are responsible for issuing work permits should have a working knowledge of laws on employing minors and be trained to provide students with practical personal guidance in career education. Only certain employees may therefore issue a work permit: the school district superintendent, a certified work experience education coordinator, a principal in some situations, or another person authorized by the superintendent if required.

The school district is not required to issue a work permit. It has discretion to restrict work hours and duties beyond what is required by statute and to impose additional requirements like a minimum grade point average, in the interest of the minor. It may also revoke a permit if the work impairs the schoolwork or the health of the student or if the employment is illegal.

Your student will likely be asked to complete a Department of Education form with her age and other identifying information, and will be required to obtain from the prospective employer information about the hours, wages, and duties of the job, along with parental consent. Work permits issued during a school year can be renewed within five days of the start of the following school year.

Because the rules on the employment of minors vary depending on their specific age, the person issuing the permit should verify the student’s age by checking the school records. Other acceptable forms of proof are a birth certificate, baptism certificate, a passport, or the affidavit of a parent, guardian, or custodian.

Your student, at age 16, will be restricted to eight hours of work while school is out of session (and four hours on any school day), and no more than 48 hours per week. Her shifts may not start before 5:00 a.m. or go past 12:30 a.m. during the summer break (or 10:00 p.m. on a school day). The normal minimum wage and overtime laws apply to this student.

There are special rules for children under 16, vocational education, certain industries, and other situations than the one you describe. Liability for child labor laws is not limited to employers; any person who knowingly certifies a false statement for a work permit may be fined and charged with a misdemeanor. For additional information, see the websites of the Department of Education ( and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement

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