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Child Labor Laws in California

Instructor: A. Casey Carr-Jones

Casey Carr-Jones holds a Bachelor's degree in English & Psychology. She is currently a PHR-certified Human Resources Consultant.

In California, the Department of Labor set out certain laws regarding employment of minors. In this lesson, we will review the details of the child labor laws, including wage, hour, and age requirements, employer requirements and work permits.

Applying for a Job as a Minor

Jerry is 15 and applied to a dish-washing position at a local restaurant in California. He is looking to work on weekends and during summer vacation. The restaurant asks him to obtain a Permit to Employ and Work, but Jerry's not sure what this means. Jerry meets with the HR manager who walks him through the process. 'Don't worry Jerry,' the HR manager says, 'Child labor laws in California can be confusing. Let's start with the application.'

What is a Minor?

A minor is a person under the age of full legal responsibility, and refers to people under the age of 18. In California, all minors under the age of 18 are subject to the child labor protections. Minors ages six through 15 must attend school full time. 16- and 17-year-olds who have not graduated from high school may opt to attend part-time classes while employed. No minor may legally drop out of school entirely.

Wage, Hour, and Age Requirements and Restrictions

California restricts when a minor can work, and how much he or she can work, based on the age of the minor, and whether or not school is in session.

Wage Requirements and Restrictions

Working minors must be paid at least the minimum wage for the state of California. Employers should be mindful that you cannot pay a high school graduate minor less than an adult if they perform the same type of work (including quality and quantity of work).

Hour and Age Requirements and Restrictions

If School is In Session

  • 12- and 13-year-olds cannot work on a school day. They may only be employed during school holidays and vacations.
  • Students aged 14 and 15 can work 3 hours per school day outside of school hours, and can work a maximum of 8 hours on any non-school day and a maximum of 18 hours per week.
  • Students aged 16 and 17 can work 4 hours per school day, a maximum of 8 hour on any non-school day, and a maximum of 48 hours per week. If 16- and 17-year-olds work more than 40 hours per week, they are entitled to overtime wages. Overtime is one and a half times the hourly rate of pay for every hour worked over 40 hours in one work week.

If School is NOT In Session

  • 12-, 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds can work a maximum of 8 hours per day, and 40 hours per week.
  • 16- and 17-year-olds can work a maximum of 8 hour per day, and 48 hours per week.

Requirements of Employer and Employee

Employers who hire minors have a set of requirements set by California's Department of Labor.

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