Question:

My 16-year-old daughter is begging me to let her get a part-time job this summer. I like the idea, but don’t know what laws apply to her, or if there are restrictions on how much she is allowed to work. Can you tell me what the relevant employment laws are for teenagers?

Answer:

This is an important issue for parents and employers alike, especially with vacation starting and lots of teenagers looking for summer jobs.

For starters, all minors (with very limited exceptions) under 18 years of age employed in the state of California must have a permit to work. The work permit is usually issued by an authorized person at the minor’s school after an employer agrees to hire the minor in question. The minor is required to obtain a Department of Education form entitled “Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work Permit” from his or her school, which must then be completed and signed by the minor’s parent or guardian, and the employer. After the completed and signed form is returned to the school, school officials may then issue the permit. During the summer, or when school is not in session, a work permit can be obtained from the superintendent of the school district where the minor lives.

Once a minor has received permission to work, there are several restrictions on the number of hours that minors are allowed to work, depending on how old the child is. Typically, minors in California must be at least 14 years old to work, although there are exceptions for some entertainment and agricultural jobs. The rules for working minors also differ depending on the time of year. For instance, during the school year, 14 and 15-year-olds cannot work more than 3 hours on school days, more than 8 hours on non-school days, before 7:00 a.m., or after 7:00 p.m. When school is not in session, however, 14 and 15-year-olds can work up to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. And while they are still not permitted to begin work before 7:00 a.m., 14 and 15 year olds are allowed to work until 9:00 p.m. during school breaks.

The laws are slightly different with regard to older teens, like your daughter. When school is in session, 16 and 17-year-olds may generally work 4 hours per school day, and 8 hours on a non-school day or on a school day preceding a non-school day (like a Friday). However, when school is not in session, 16 and 17-year-olds can work up to 8 hours a day and up to 48 hours a week. Generally speaking, work hours for 16 and 17-year-olds must be between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., but during the summer months or on evenings before a non-school day, 16 and 17-year-olds can work as late as 12:30 a.m.

Just like adults, minors must be paid at least minimum wage (which is currently $8.00 in California) for their work. Overtime requirements also apply to minors, such as 16 and 17-year-olds who are allowed to work up to 48 hours in a week. Minors are also entitled to the workplace rights that are set forth in the Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders and California labor statutes, such as rest periods, workers’ compensation coverage, and statements of paycheck deductions. The California Labor Commissioner provides guidance on these issues on the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement website, at
http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE-CL.htm.

Minors are also protected from discrimination and harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as under federal law. More information on those issues is available on the “Youth at Work” website at http://youth.eeoc.gov.

Employers must also follow all relevant health and safety laws to keep young workers safe on the job. State and federal laws also limit and regulate the employment of minors in various jobs, including food service and roofing occupations, job-related driving, work with paper balers/compactors, animals, chemicals or explosives. While 16-year-olds are permitted to work in a greater variety of jobs than 14 and 15-year-olds, there are still some restrictions that apply in certain industries. For more information on health and safety laws and regulations in California, you can visit Cal/OSHA’s website at http://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/dosh1.html.
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