California Labor Law: Work Permits

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In California, a minor under the age of 18 must have a Permit to Employ and Work in order to work for money. These permits are commonly called work permits, and California generally requires that they be issued by the superintendent of the school where the student is enrolled.

Work Permit in California Basics

A minor can only obtain a work permit in California after reaching the age of 12, with the exception of work permits issued for the entertainment industry. In order to obtain a permit, the minor must first find an employer willing to hire her. She will then need to obtain a Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work Permit, which she will need to fill out along with her parents and the employer. This application details where the minor will work, what her duties will be and how many hours she will be working.

The application must then be brought back to the minor's school, where the officials may choose to issue a work permit. To get a work permit in California in the summer, the permit must be brought directly to the superintendent's office. Schools are not required to issue permits.

Any minor who works in the entertainment industry, even for many noncommercial works, must have a work permit as long as they are over 15 days old. The employer for entertainment industry work also must have a permit to employ a minor. Whereas an application for a work permit in California is usually approved by a school's superintendent, these entertainment industry permits can only be issued by the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Read More: Requirements for a Work Permit in California

Who Needs a Work Permit?

Many parents mistakenly believe their child can work at their family business without a work permit, but unless this employment involves agriculture, domestic labor or a property owned by the parent, a work permit is still required. That's because a work permit is required to help schools monitor how many hours a student is working so they can properly balance their coursework.

Because high school education is compulsory, even emancipated minors cannot work without a work permit, though they can complete the paperwork without a parent. The only exceptions to work permit laws are when the minor:

  • Has already graduated high school.
  • Obtains a certificate of proficiency or equivalency, often called a GED.
  • Is self-employed.
  • Is hired by a government agency.
  • Works odd jobs in private homes on an irregular schedule, such as babysitting or landscaping.
  • Is an unpaid volunteer or trainee.

Allowable Maximum Hours Worked

The maximum hours a student may work varies based on the student's age and whether or not school is in session. Employees 12 and 13 years of age can only work on nonschool days, no more than eight hours a day and no more than 40 hours a week over the summer. Those who are 14 and 15 must have completed the 7th grade to work while school is in session and can work no more than three hours per school day or eight hours on a nonschool day. When school is in session, 14- and 15-year-olds can work no more than 18 hours a week; over the summer, they can work no more than 40 hours a week.

Students who are 16 and 17 can work full time. In fact, they can work up to 48 hours a week when school is not in session or even 48 hours a week while school is in session, as long they are part of a work experience program sponsored by their school. When school is in session, these minors can work no more than four hours on most school days, and on any school day or a school day that is not followed by another school day – usually Fridays – they can work eight hours a day.