State and Federal Regulations of Summer Jobs for Teenagers

Christopher M. Olmsted
June 30, 2008 — 2,633 views  
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Summer is here and many teenagers will be hitting the workforce to earn a few extra dollars. Companies who hire teenagers should be aware that state and federal law restricts the use of minors or “child labor.”

The laws apply to “minors.” The California Labor Code defines “minors” as people under the age of 18 who are required to attend school. The definition also includes people under age 18 who are not required to attend school because they are not California residents. The definition also covers any child under the age of six.

Under this definition, a person under the age of 18 who has graduated from high school, or the equivalent, is not a minor, because he or she is not required to attend school. Therefore child labor laws would not apply.

Work permits are required to employ “minors” under the age of 18. Generally, permits can be obtained from the student’s school. Schools are not permitted to issue permits for children under age 12, but under federal law it is generally impermissible to employ an individual under age 14. The documents are usually issued from the superintendent’s office, or by the superintendent’s designated representative.

Work permits have a short duration, and therefore the employer must track the effective dates carefully. Permits issued during the school year expire at the start of the next school year. Therefore, if you hire a teenager for the summer, be sure to obtain a new permit if you intend to continue the employment into the fall session of school.

Work permits must be obtained before work begins, and the employer must keep the permit on file at all times during the minor’s employment.

The school district’s permit form, if completely filled out, ought to comply with Labor Code requirements. Be sure to include the minor’s name, age, birth date, address, telephone number, and social security number. (For employment during the school year, the hours of school attendance must be included, along with the maximum number of hours per day and week that the student may work.) The permit must be signed by the issuing school representative and the student. The issuing representative will include an expiration date on the permit form.

The California Education Code limits the number of hours a minor may work while school is in session. This article covers summertime employment, so it skips those details.

Labor Code §1391 prohibits minors from working in excess of certain hours. The rules depend on the child’s age. Minors under age 16 cannot work overtime—i.e., they cannot work more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. Also, during the summer (June 1 through Labor Day) those under 16 cannot work before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. (Note: There is an exception for newspaper delivery jobs.)

Minors age 16 or 17 cannot work more than 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week. They may work as early as 5:00 a.m. or as late as 12:30 a.m. as long as there is no school the following day.

Certain of the Wage Orders also contain provisions regarding child labor. Therefore, review the Order applicable to your industry before hiring minors.

California and federal law restricts child labor to a small number of occupations. Children of certain ages are prohibited from working in a number of hazardous jobs, including, for example, a number of manufacturing, industrial, and construction occupations, as well as driving a motor vehicle. Before hiring a minor, be sure to confirm that state and federal law permit the child to work the occupation in question. Further, if employment is permitted, check for any occupation-specific restrictions or limitations on working conditions.

State and federal law contain a number of exceptions and limitations on the general description provided in this article. Therefore, review the statutes and regulations, or seek legal advice, before hiring minors.

Christopher M. Olmsted