Question:

My son is 15 years old and would like to get a summer job so that he can save his money and buy a car. I want to make sure that he knows his rights as an employee. Are there special laws that apply to minors?

Answer:

There are several provisions under the California Labor Code that dictate the number of hours a minor may work, what an employer must pay a minor, and the types of jobs in which minors may work. Under the California Labor Code, a minor is any person under the age of 18 years who is required to attend school under the provisions of the Education Code. However, there are several specific laws that apply to minors within specific age ranges.

Since your son is 15 years old and wants to work during the summer, from June 1 through Labor Day, his employer can require him to work as late as 9:00 p.m. However, he cannot work for more than eight hours in one day, or more than 40 hours in one week, or be required to start work before 7:00 a.m. If he continues to work during the school year, he cannot work for more than three hours in any schoolday, nor more than 18 hours in any week, nor during school hours, with one exception — if he is enrolled in and employed pursuant to a school supervised and school administered work experience and career exploration program, he can work up to 23 hours per week, any portion of which can be during school hours.

Minors who are 16 or 17 years old cannot work for more than eight hours in one day or more than 48 hours in one week, or before 5:00 a.m., or after 10:00 p.m. on any day before a schoolday. If the following day is not a schoolday, minors in that age range can work until 12:30 a.m. on a non-schoolday. With a few exceptions, no employer shall employ a minor who is 16 or 17 years of age for more than four hours in any schoolday.

As to wages, minors are covered by the minimum wage, which is $7.50 per hour. And sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, who are allowed to work up to 48 hours in a week, must be paid any overtime that applies. Additionally, minors, like all non-exempt employees, are entitled to rest periods, meal periods, workers’ compensation coverage, and statements of paycheck deductions.

There are a wide variety of jobs in which your son can work as a 15-year-old. The list includes office and clerical work, cashiering, modeling, window trimming, bagging and carrying out customers’ orders, price marking and tagging, errand and delivery work, clean-up work and maintenance of grounds (as long as it does not involve the use of power-driven mowers or cutters), kitchen work and other work involved in preparing and serving food and beverages, and cleaning vegetables and fruits. Prohibited jobs include adjusting any belt to any machinery; sewing or lacing machine belts in any workshop or factory; oiling, wiping, or cleaning machinery or assisting in those tasks; operating a variety of tools and machinery including circular or band saws, laundry machinery, printing presses, or metal or paper-cutting machines, to name a few. And minors under 16 cannot work in any capacity upon any railroad, upon any vessel or boat engaged in navigation or commerce within the jurisdiction of California, in connection with any processes in which dangerous or poisonous acids are used, in the manufacture or packing of paints, in occupations causing dust in injurious quantities, on scaffolding, in heavy work in the building trades, operating any automobile, motorcar or truck, or in any occupation dangerous to the life or limb, or injurious to the health or morals of the minor.

Your son should also know that minors are protected from discrimination and harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as under the federal laws. Both you and he can learn more about his rights and responsibilities as an employee at http://youth.eeoc.gov.
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