I own a busy restaurant and I am in the process of hiring summer workers. Many of the applicants are high school students. What do I need to know about hiring workers who are under eighteen years old?


The California Labor Code imposes limits on the number of hours minors may work. Generally, minors must be at least fourteen years old to work, except in some entertainment and agricultural jobs. Between June 1 and Labor Day, fourteen and fifteen year olds may work no more than eight hours per day and forty hours per week, and they cannot work before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. During the school year, fourteen and fifteen year old workers may not work more than three hours on school days, eight hours on non-school days, more than eighteen hours per week, or before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

When school is not in session, sixteen and seventeen year olds can work up to eight hours a day and up to forty-eight hours a week. With a few exceptions, work hours for sixteen and seventeen year olds must be between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., but during the non-school months or on evenings before a non-school day, sixteen and seventeen year olds can work as late as 12:30 a.m. Sixteen and seventeen year olds may generally work four hours per school day and eight hours on a non-school day.

State and federal laws also limit 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.

In food service occupations, the following restrictions apply:

  • The general rule is that fourteen and fifteen year olds are restricted in performing baking or cooking functions.  Fourteen and fifteen year olds may perform some cooking at soda fountains and snack bars, if the cooking is not the minor’s sole duty. But minors may not use rotisseries, broilers, pressurized cooking equipment, or cooking devices that operate at very high temperatures.  This restriction on fourteen and fifteen year olds also applies to jobs that are part of the baking process, such as weighing and mixing ingredients, placing products in pans or trays, and operating pizza and other ovens. Workers age sixteen and older are not subject to these cooking/baking restrictions.
  • Fourteen and fifteen year olds may perform general food preparation, serving and kitchen work for retail, food service or gasoline service establishments, including the use of food warmers, steam tables, heat lamps, dishwashers, coffee machines, coffee grinders, blenders, popcorn poppers and toasters.
  • Fourteen and fifteen year olds are permitted to clean certain non-prohibited kitchen equipment, remove oil or grease filters, pour oil or grease through such filters, and move receptacles containing hot oil or grease, provided the equipment, surfaces, containers and liquids do not exceed 100° F.

Minors are covered by minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. The current minimum wage is $6.75 per hour. Minors are entitled to workplace rights described in the Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders and California statues, such as rest periods, workers’ compensation coverage, and statements of paycheck deductions. The California Labor Commissioner publishes an online pamphlet to assist you in complying with the laws governing the employment of minors. For more information, visit the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement website at and click on publications to access the child labor law pamphlet.
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