Written by Veenita Raj

With the shortage of candidates available for hire, especially in the hospitality industry, many employers are having to expand their pool of qualified candidates to include minors. There are, however, special rules and regulations that employers must follow if planning to hire minors.  While the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) regulates the employment of minors, including what hours they can work and industries, California has its own law, which is often more restrictive than the FLSA.  

Below is an overview of what employers need to know when it comes to hiring minors in California:  

School Attendance Requirements  

Minors 12 to 15 years of age must attend high school full-time unless they have graduated high school or equivalent.  

16- and 17-year-olds are not required to attend high school if they have graduated high school or have a certificate of proficiency. However, if they are regularly employed and have not graduated high school or equivalent, they must attend continuation school for at least 4 hours per week.  

Work Permit Requirements (does not apply to high school graduates or equivalent)  

Except in limited circumstances, employers are required to get a work permit issued by the minor’s school before hire, unless the minor is a high school graduate or equivalent. Once an employer agrees to hire the minor, it must obtain the work permit before the minor performs any work, including orientation or training and even if the minor does not perform any actual job duties. The school will decide whether to issue a work permit and may decide to issue the permit for the maximum hours allowed by law, to limit the hours the minor may work, or to refuse to issue a permit at all. 

Work Permits

1. Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work Permit are completed by the minor and the employee and available here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/dlseformB1-1.pdf. This form must be completed first and then Form B1-4 is completed.

2. Form B1-4 Permit to Employ and Work is issued by the minor’s school and available here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/dlseformB1-4.pdf

California Child Labor Laws is a publication by the State of California that outlines restrictions on employing minors and the types of work and equipment minors are prohibited from doing and using and is available here.

Hours of Work  

Minor employees are not allowed to work unlimited hours and their work hours may depend on their age and the school calendar as follows:  

  1. When school is in session:
    • 16- and 17-year-olds may work 4 hours per day on any school day, 8 hours on any non-school day or any day preceding a non-school day, up to 48 hours per week, and between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p. m., except on evenings preceding non-school days, the minor may work until 12:30 a.m. 
    • Children who are 14 and 15 years of age, may work if they have not completed 7th grade, and they may work up to 3 hours on school days, 8 hours on non-school days, and up to 18 hours per week. 
    • 12- and 13-year-olds may be employed only during school holidays and weekends, and may never be employed on any school day.   
  1. When school is not in session:
    • 16- and 17-year-olds may work up to 8 hours a day, up to 48 hours a week, and between 7:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., on days that do not precede a school day. 
    • 12 through 15-year-olds may 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.   
  1. Youth who are 16 and 17 years old and enrolled in a work experience or cooperative vocational program approved by the California Department of Education may work until 12:30 a.m. on any day and may work more than 8 hours on a school day.
  2. Youth who are 14 and 15 years old may enroll in a work experience education program and be issued permits to work in full-time employment if:
    • the youth’s 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; 
    • the youth needs the full-time earnings for support because he or she minor is unable to reside with his or her family; or 
    • the youth resides in foster care and, with the written authorization of their social worker, probation officer, or child protective services worker, wishes to further the goal of obtaining a court ordered Declaration of Emancipation or gain knowledge of work skills and habits. 

Wage and Hour Issues 

Minors must be paid at least the minimum wage and applicable overtime rates and must be provided with all legally required meal and rest breaks. High school graduates or the equivalent must be paid commensurate with adults when they perform the same quantity, quality, and classification of work. This includes wage rates that are above the minimum wage.  

Penalties for Violating Child Labor Laws 

Violations of child labor laws carry serious civil and criminal penalties. The more severe civil penalties generally involve employment in hazardous occupations.  Criminal violations of child labor laws are misdemeanors punishable by fines ranging up to $10,000, by jail time of up to six months, or both fines and imprisonment.