Legal Age to Work in California

Minimum Age to Work in CA

California (CA) Quick Reference Table
AgeSummary of Requirements
14-15Must have a permit to work, and employers must have a Permit to Employ.
16-17Must have a permit to work, and employers must have a Permit to Employ.
18-20May not be employed during business hours in or on that portion of any premises that are primarily designed and used for the sale and service of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises.
21Able to serve alcohol for consumption. No restrictions.
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How Old Do You Have to Be to Work in California?

California labor laws allow job seekers between the ages of 14 and 17 to obtain employment under a number of prerequisites. Conditions typically surround age, type of employment, level of education, and ability to secure a work permit from a local high school or labor commissioner. Allowances increase with age, and labor laws vary slightly from fourteen and fifteen to sixteen and seventeen. The State of California also provides allowances for 12 and 13 year olds to work various types of jobs on non-school days, generally including holidays, vacations, and weekends. In most cases, California prohibits twelve and thirteen year olds from working before, after, or during the school day.

California Child Labor Laws

Work Permit Regulations
In general, any minor under the age of 18 hoping to gain employment must obtain a permit from the local school district before commencing work. Jobs requiring minors to miss school may need approval from the labor commissioner. The local school district issues work permits to minors based on its sole discretion. Minors who have completed high school or the equivalent remain exempt from obtaining work permits, as do emancipated minors; however, certain labor laws for workers under the age of 18 may still apply to minors who have completed general education requirements. Dependent minors may only apply for work permits with parental permission.

Minors of legal working age must pass the seventh grade to obtain employment during the school year and need to procure work permits before seeking employment. Additionally, minors classified as “dropouts” must adhere to all regulations pertaining to work permits and child labor laws. Though the state provides guidelines for how many hours minors may work, the school district determines the exact specifications of the permit based on the health and academic needs of the minor. School officials may give or rescind permits based on those needs.

Hours Restrictions

How many hours can a 14 or 15 year old work?
Workers between ages 14 and 15 may work three hours on school days and a combined 18 hours per week during the school year. Fourteen and fifteen year old workers may not work during school hours and must complete work between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm during the school year. Minors 14 and 15 years old may work no more than eight hours per day on non-school days and no more than 40 hours per week between June 1 and Labor Day.

How many hours can a 16 or 17 year old work?
Sixteen and seventeen year olds enjoy permission to work four hours per day on school days and no more than eight hours on non-school days. Such minors may complete work before or after school, between the hours of 5:00am and 10:00pm, and as late as 12:30am on any evening preceding a non-school day. Minors between the ages of 16 and 17 may work a maximum of 48 hours per week.

Jobs Available to California Minors

What kind of jobs can minors work?
Federal labor laws limit the types of employment minors 14 to 17 years old may obtain based on hazardous and dangerous work conditions or age restricted activities, such as the sale of alcohol. California laws may place additional restrictions on minors based on specific state laws, and employers must remain aware of such regulations. Though many state and federal labor laws put boundaries on the kinds of jobs minors may perform, some jobs do not require minors to obtain permits at all. Minors may perform casual jobs like babysitting, yard work, and lawn mowing privately for homeowners who desire such services. Persons 12 years of age and older may work as news carriers and deliver newspapers on designated routes, as well.

With the proper work permit, minors between the ages of 14 and 17 may work in retail establishments, gasoline service stations, and the food service industry. However, California prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from taking on cooking as a primary job duty, operating dangerous machinery with mowers and cutters, and performing office work for companies involved in the construction or transportation of aircrafts, vessels, automobiles, and trains. Acceptable tasks typically include cashiering, basic food preparation, wrapping, stocking, selling, advertising, and cleaning. Fourteen and fifteen year old minors may not participate in work deemed hazardous for 16 and 17 year olds by the federal government. Moreover, sixteen and seventeen year old persons may not perform any type of labor the federal government judges hazardous for 18 year old workers.

source: California child labor laws source: California labor law pamphlet
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