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.
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.
There are different types of permits for minors to work in California and forms you need to fill out, including:
16- and 17-year-olds can work up to 8 hours a day, up to 48 hours a week, and between 7:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m, when school is not in session on days that do not precede a school day. 12 through 15-year-olds are allowed to work up to 8 hours per day, up to 40 hours per week, and between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., except that from June 1 through Labor Day, until 9:00 p.m.
Minors who are 16 and 17 years of age and enrolled in a work experience or cooperative vocational program approved by the California Department of Education can work until 12:30 a.m. on any day and may work more than 8 hours on a school day. Youth who are 14 and 15 years old can enroll in a work experience education program and be issued permits to work in full-time employment if their family needs the full-time earnings because of the death or desertion of the youth’s father and/or mother, and sufficient aid cannot be secured in any other manner; they need the full-time earnings for support because they are unable to reside with his or her family; or they reside in foster care and, with the written authorization of their social worker, probation officer, or child protective services worker, they wish to further the goal of obtaining a court-ordered Declaration of Emancipation or gain knowledge of work skills and habits.
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.
California Labor Code § 1286 establishes that a minor is defined as any person under 18 years of age who is required to attend school under Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of Part 27 of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Education Code, and any person under six years of age. An individual under 18 years of age who is not required to attend school under the Education Code solely because they are a nonresident of California will still be considered a minor.
School dropouts will still be subject to California’s compulsory education laws and attendance requirements, and are thus still subject to all state child labor laws. Virtually all minors under the age of 18 will be subject to California’s child labor protections.
Only high school graduates and individuals with equivalency degrees under the age of 18 will be entirely excluded from California work and hour restrictions, but they are not excluded from wage orders. Federal law also imposes restrictions regarding the employment of high school graduates under age 18, as it may prohibit employment of such people in certain occupations absent appropriate apprenticeship or student-learner programs.
There is a narrow exception to coverage for employers who are the biological or legal parent or guardian of a minor employee working in agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, or domestic labor on or in connection with premises that the parent or guardian owns, operates, or controls. Such parent or guardian employers are exempt from work permit requirements, most work hour restrictions, and hazardous occupation prohibitions.
Minors cannot be employed by parents or guardians in these exempted occupations during school hours, even when the minor is under school age. Parent or guardian employers employing their children can also be exempt from complying with both state and federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.
California Labor Code § 1391(c) subjects parents or guardians to special liability when they allow a minor to be unlawfully employed, even when they are not the employers themselves.
Minors cannot work unlimited hours. Their work hours may depend on their age and school calendar:
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.
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:
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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