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With the continued shortage of workers available in today’s market, particularly in the hospitality industry, many employers are expanding their searches for qualified workers to include minors. However, employers must observe special rules and regulations if they plan on hiring minors. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates the employment of minors, including how many hours they can work and in what industries. California has its own regulations that are often stricter than the FLSA.

Below is an overview of what minors need to know when it comes to being hired by employers in California. If you have questions, consider contacting a California employment attorney

School Attendance

Minors aged 12 to 15 must attend high school full-time unless they have graduated high school or have a comparable education. 16 and 17-year-olds are not required to attend high school full-time if they have already graduated or have a similar certificate. If they are employed and haven’t graduated from high school, they must attend continuation school for 4 hours per week or more.

Work Permits

Employers must get a work permit issued by a minor’s school before hiring them unless the minor is a high school graduate. Once the employer hires the minor, it must get a work permit before the minor does any work, including training or orientation, even if the minor doesn’t do any job duties at that time. The school will decide whether to issue a work permit. The school can issue a work permit for the maximum amount of hours permitted by law, limit the hours the minor can work, or refuse to issue a permit altogether.

Work Hours

Minors cannot work unlimited hours. Their work hours may depend on their age and school calendar:

  • 16 and 17-year-olds can work 4 hours per day during any school day or 8 hours during any non-school day. They can work up to 48 hours per week between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., except evenings before non-school days. On those days, minors can work until 12:30 a.m.
  • Children aged 14 and 15, if they haven’t completed 7th grade, can work up to 3 hours per day on school days and 8 hours per day on non-school days. They can work up to 18 hours per week.
  • 12 and 13-year-olds can work only during school holidays and weekends. They can never be employed during a school day.

Wages and Hours

Minors must be compensated at least the minimum wage. They must be given overtime rates and be given all legally required meal and rest breaks. High school students must be paid the same rates as adults when they perform the same amount and quality of work. This includes wages that are above minimum wage.

Penalties for Violating Child Labor Laws

Violations of child labor laws have severe civil and criminal punishments. The more serious penalties often involve minors working in dangerous occupations. Criminal violations of child labor regulations are misdemeanors, meaning they are punishable by:

  1. Fines of up to $10,000.
  2. Jail time of up to six months.
  3. Both fines and imprisonment.

Speak with a California Employment Attorney

If you are a minor – or the parent of a working minor – and think your employer is violating child labor laws, contact us to fight on your behalf. Mara Law Firm handles a wide range of employment cases, including those involving minor employees.

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