Legal Age to Work in Washington

Minimum Age to Work in WA

Washington (WA) Quick Reference Table

AgeSummary of Requirements
14-15Work permit required. Cannot work more than 16 hours per week or more than 3 hours per day when school is in session. May work 40 hours during a non-school week. Cannot work before 7:00am or after 7:00pm (9:00pm during the summer).
16-17Cannot work more than 20 hours per week or more than 4 hours per day when school is in session. 28 hours for a partial school week. Cannot work before 5:00am or after 12:00am.
18-20Must be 18 to work in establishments that sell or serve alcohol for consumption.
21Able to serve alcohol for consumption. No restrictions.

Washington Child Labor Laws

The Washington Administrative Code, or WAC, outlines the rules and regulations for child labor in the state. Employers and workers must abide by statutes and principles the state determines as appropriate. Laws exist to protect minors from harmful or unsuitable work conditions. The WAC defines a minor as a person under the age of 18.

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General Regulations for Working Minors

The ensuing provisions apply specifically to non-agricultural occupations. In general, employees must stand years 14 of age or older to work in the State of Washington. Individuals thirteen years of age and younger may work for a family business, provided the minor does not perform prohibited duties. Teen workers 16 and over earn minimum wage, while workers 14 and 15 years of age must make at least 85% of the minimum rate of pay. After more than five hours of work in one day, underage workers 16 and over may take a 30-minute meal break and stand entitled to a paid break of at least 10 minutes for every four hours of work. Fourteen and fifteen year olds may take a meal break after four hours of labor and a 10 minute rest after 120 minutes.

During school weeks, minors over 15 may work up to four hours Monday through Friday, eight hours Saturday and Sunday, and up to six days a week, provided the total hours do not exceed 20. With a special variance, teenagers 16 and over may work 28 hours in a school week. Teens under sixteen must work no more than 16 hours a week or three hours a day, for no more than six days a school week. Non-academic weeks carry less strict regulations for work periods. With few exceptions, most minors may not remain on the clock after 7:00pm or before 7:00am on a given day.

Hiring Teens in Washington

To hire teen workers, employers need to obtain the appropriate work permits and industrial insurance coverages, which must remain posted at every location of the company. Work permits stand available at no cost to the licensed business owner and last for one year after the date of issuance. In addition to the permit, each child laborer needs a parent/school authorization form signed by all parties involved. Employers bear responsibility for procuring proof of age for workers and retaining records for three years after the date of hire. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, or L&I, imposes fines for employers in violation of minor labor laws.

Prohibited Work

Restricted Duties for all Minors
The State of Washington limits the work child laborers may carry out. Many job duties remain prohibited to protect the well-beings of minors and to avoid placing juveniles in dangerous or inappropriate situations. The constraints apply to workers in family-owned, non-agricultural jobs, as well. No individuals under 18 may work later than 8:00pm without supervision by an adult during the entire period of time. Generally, teens also may not perform any jobs requiring respiratory or hearing protection. In addition, the following occupations stand prohibited for minors:

  • Operating/Cleaning Meat Slicers
  • Delivery Driving
  • Driving a Forklift
  • Working at Heights 10 feet or Greater
  • Wrecking/Demolition
  • Work with Elevators/Hoists/Cranes
  • Mining
  • Firefighting
  • Trenching/Excavating
  • Work with or Exposure to Hazardous Substances
  • Nurse’s Aide/Assistant
  • Work with Paper Balers
  • Work in Processing Freezers or Meat Coolers
  • Slaughtering/Meat Packing
  • Logging and Sawmill Work
  • Manufacturing of Brick/Tile
  • Traffic Flagging
  • Work with Explosives
  • Work in Boilers/Engine Rooms
  • Sales to Motorists on a Public Roadway
  • Work in Saunas/Massage Parlors

Jobs for 14 and 15 Year Olds

Additional work restrictions exist for individuals under 16 years of age. Younger workers face narrower options due to lack of experience and responsibility compared with older candidates as well as safety concerns. Fourteen and fifteen year old workers may not hold employment as or related to:

  • Driving an Automobile
  • Cooking/Baking
  • Door-to-Door Sales
  • Work in Amusement Parks
  • Maintenance/Repair in Gas Stations
  • Operating Food Processors
  • Loading/Unloading Trucks

Exemptions for Student Learners
Sixteen and seventeen year old workers may perform certain hazardous jobs as part of paid student learner programs. Employers need to submit written requests to the department related to the occupations in question and fill out corresponding paperwork. All labor must occur under the supervision of a qualified mentor assigned to the student worker. The minor must also undergo safety training before work may commence. Unless said conditions stand fulfilled, underage workers remain prohibited from all jobs in the following list:

  • Power-driven Woodworking Machines
  • Power-driven Metal-forming/Punching Machines
  • Meat-packing/Processing
  • Excavation
  • Roofing
  • Power-driven Paper-product Machines
  • Power-driven Saws/Shears

Other Exceptions
Licensed 17 year olds may drive as part of employment duties in jobs where driving does not constitute the primary function of the work. Other limits, including vehicle regulations and distance requirements, apply to young individuals operating automobiles in the contexts of employment. Registrants of formal apprenticeship programs may perform some electrical work as trainees if individuals stand 16 years of age or older and follow proper procedures within the parameters outlined by the L&I. Under very limited circumstances, employers may also apply for special variances to hire minors under 16 years of age for house-to-house sales, an incidentally hazardous position.

Following the completion of variance applications, employers in the theatrical field may hire minors under 14 as actors, performers, or models in film, video, or audio productions. With proper documentation, employees may work more than the allowable amount of time and during school hours, as well. Parent/school authorizations still stand required for workers in the performing arts domain. Hazardous duties remain prohibited for workers in theatrical positions.

Employing Minors for Agricultural Work

Farming Jobs for Teens in Washington
Washington teenagers normally earn the same rates of pay for agricultural employment duties as other teen workers, which generally proves minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds and 85% of the minimum wage for individuals less than sixteen years of age. However, child workers employed as hand-harvest laborers may receive pay on a piece rate basis if the workers commute to the job daily and did not work more than 13 weeks in agricultural duties during the year preceding current employment.

Aside from the following deviations, minors working in agricultural stay bound by the same hours regulations as non-farming teen workers. Sixteen and seventeen year olds may work 50 hours, as many as 10 a day, during non-academic weeks, and up to 60 hours paid as mechanical harvesters of peas, wheat, or hay. Fourteen and fifteen year olds may labor for 21 hours during school weeks, while sixteen and seventeen year olds may work up to 28 hours. Potential work hours extend from 6:00am for animal-related and irrigation workers to 8:00pm for all fourteen and fifteen year old individuals. Hours on the clock may range from 5:00am to 9:00pm during non-school weeks, and individuals over 15 may work until 10:00pm on up to two consecutive school nights. Irrigation, livestock, and dairy employees between 14 and 17 years of age may work seven days a week, regardless of school status. Jobs for 12 and 13 year olds exist legally, as well. Juveniles stand permitted to work on non-school weeks as hand-harvesters with the same hour stipulations constraining fourteen and fifteen year olds, minus the seven-day exception.

Work Restrictions
For minors under 16, prohibited duties specific to agriculture include operation of corn pickers, balers, and combines, work in fruit silos designed to retain specific atmospheres, duties related to manure pits, and working with boars, bulls, or horses kept for breeding reasons. Student learner exemptions remain valid, where applicable. The L&I maintains a complete list of prohibited agricultural duties on the State Department website. Immediate family members of farm owners stay exempt from WA child labor laws.

Business owners hiring minors in the Evergreen State for farming duties must follow the same work permit procedures as non-agricultural employers. In cases determined to possess sufficient cause, such as harvest conditions or unpredictable weather scenarios, employers may apply for variances to allow minors to work additional hours. Underage workers must remain safe on the job at all times and the extra hours may not interfere with the school performance of the child.

source: Washington child labor laws
source: Washington agricultural jobs laws for teens

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