Labor Laws: Can A Minor in California Obtain a Work Permit?

Labor Laws: Can A Minor in California Obtain a Work Permit?
••• designer491/iStock/GettyImages

In short, minors can absolutely get work permits in the state of California. In fact, they can get a few of them if necessary. But, naturally, "simple" is rarely a word that applies to the law, and these permits come with quite a few stipulations. A whole litany of federal and state laws work in tandem in the Golden State to ensure rights and protections for working children and young adults, so while the actual application process for getting a work permit is just about as simple as filing some paperwork, the limitations surrounding that permit run fairly deep, including restrictions on age, school attendance, wages, work hours and more.

California Child Labor Laws by Age

Before diving into the ins and outs of getting a work permit for minors in California, it's important to know the legal basics for the employment of minors in the state. If the minor doesn't meet these requirements, the work permit will be a no-go.

Minors under age 12 who want to work must attend school full time and can only work in the entertainment industry by permit, during the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and up to eight hours a day or 40 hours per week, or in jobs that don't require permits. At age 13, the same restrictions apply, though 13-year-olds may work as personal attendants or in household occupations, too, on non-school days.

At ages 14 and 15, minors attending school full time can work with a permit in many retail, food service, clerical and office occupations, but are restricted from hazardous lines of work, like manufacturing, mining, construction and electrical jobs. When school is in session, work hours are limited to three hours on school days and eight hours on non-school days, for a total of 18 hours a week.

For 16- and 17-year-olds, school attendance of four to 15 hours per week, including at a continuation school, is required if the worker is not a high school graduate. A permit is required, and the minor may work for up to eight hours on non-school days and four hours on school days for a weekly maximum of 48 hours. Part-time students can work during regular school hours as long as the work doesn't interfere with their class schedule requirements. This age group is able to work between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. or as late as 12:30 a.m. when it's not a school night.

All minors' wages must meet those required by the Industrial Welfare Commission, with some exceptions. By California law, high school graduates can work the same hours as adults, even if they graduated high school before reaching the age of majority.

About the Work Permit

Officially, the document that minors need in order to work in California is called a "Permit to Employ and Work." In most cases, this work permit is issued by the school district that the minor attends. Because it's issued by the California Department of Education, the Permit to Employ and Work is also known as CDE Form B1-4.

The permit details the duties of the occupation and the location of the work, as well as the number of hours the young adult is permitted to work. Other information on the permit includes:

  • The minor's name, phone number, address, Social Security number, birth date and age at the time of issuance.

  • Name of the minor's school, its address and phone number.

  • Maximum number of daily and weekly work hours permitted for school days and non-school days, while school is in session and when school is not in session.

  • Name of the business and its address.

  • Any additional remarks or work limitations.

  • Minor's signature and date signed.

  • Issuing authority's name and title, signature and date signed.

Under the California Education Code, work permits expire five days after the opening of the next school year, except for permits issued to full-time, exempt 14- and 15-year-olds, which expire at the end of the current school year. A California work permit is only valid at the business listed on the permit. Minors can have more than one work permit, but they'll need a valid permit for each employer. In these cases, work hours among multiple employers are combined and cannot exceed the total legal limit.

Work Permit for Minors: Application Process

The actual application process needed to get a work permit for minors is laid out in detail in California Education Code Section 49110(c), but here's the breakdown without all the legalese:

First, applicants need to fill out a form called State of Intent to Employ a Minor and Request for a Work Permit-Certificate of Age (which is all just one form despite the convoluted title), also known as CDE Form B1-1. This form asks for the minor's info, the school's info, the employer's info and a description of the nature of the work to be performed as written by the employer. The student, the employer, and the parent, guardian, foster parent, caregiver or residential shelter service provider for the minor all must sign CDE Form B-1.

After signing, CDE Form B-1 is submitted to the school district that is local to the minor's address, usually the school at which the minor is currently enrolled. The school district then reviews the form, and if no problems are found, it will issue a CDE Form B1-4, the official work permit. Note that it is solely within the school's discretion to determine whether a minor can obtain a work permitby California state law, issuance is permissive, not mandatory.

In some cases, the state requires an entirely different form. If the minor is classified as an unpaid trainee for academic or educational purposesnot an employeethe school needs a CDE Form B1-6, Request for Volunteer/Unpaid Trainee Authorization for Minor, instead.

Good news: All of the forms in question are available from the California Department of Education's website.

Entertainment Industry Permits

It should come as no surprise that work permit rules for minors in California go a little out of their way to cater to the state's iconic entertainment industry, allowing minors as young as 15 days old to work. In that case, babies can only work for up to two hours per day in 20-minute sessions. The hours get more lenient the older the worker gets, reaching up to eight hours of work activity for 16- to 18-year-olds who are not in school sessions. Across age groups, some additional requirements include:

  • Permits to work.
  • Presence of parent or guardian on employment site.
  • Presence of studio teacher and nurse.
  • Limited exposure to lights for babies up to 6 months old.
  • Time allotted for rest and recreation.

Entertainment work permits fall into a few different categories. Most common is the standard entertainment work permit, which is renewable every six months while the minor is under 18. First-time applications must include proof of birth date, such as a birth certificate, a letter from the hospital, a baptismal certificate or a passport. All applications for school-age children require approval from the school, and workers younger than one month also need to submit a medical certification.

A 10-day temporary entertainment work permit is a one-time document issued immediately without the need to submit a birth certificate or to seek approval from the minor's school. As of 2019, this permit comes with a $50 fee, unlike other California work permits. This permit is available only to minors aged 15 days to 16 years and only if the minor has not previously been issued an entertainment work permit, or if the parents or guardians have not previously applied for one.

To get an entertainment work permit, interested parties can apply online at the State of California Department of Industrial Relations' website. Alternatively, the DIR accepts paper copies (also available to print at their website) of the Application for Permission to Work in the Entertainment Industry by mail, addressed to the California DIR. Applicants can also visit the Van Nuys Entertainment Work Permit unit at 6150 Van Nuys Blvd., Room 100.

No Permits Required for Certain Work

In some cases, California doesn't require work permits for minors. For instance, self-employed minors such as newspaper deliverers must be at least 12 years old, but don't need a permit. Similarly, minors can work for their parents' agriculture businesses in nonhazardous positions without a permit, subject to the other applicable restrictions for minor employees.

The same goes for minors who do what California laws call casual work in homes, including things like babysitting, lawn mowing or leaf raking. Employment by parents or guardians for domestic labor on premises owned by those parents or guardians doesn't require a permit, though the other restrictions on employing minors still apply.

Child Labor Laws and Penalties

Employing a minor without a work permit in an occupation that requires one can lead to a spectrum of legal penalties, as do other violations of California's child labor laws, such as failure to pay minimum wage, failure to carry workers' compensation insurance, and failure to provide written deduction statements. These civil penalties fall into two categories: Class A and Class B.

Class A violations typically involve the employment of minors in dangerous occupations. These violations incur penalties ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 for every minor employed and for each violation.

Class B violations usually relate to nonhazardous occupations, including the entertainment industry, and carry fines between $500 and $1,000 per minor, per violation.

Of course, the penalties escalate when criminal violations related to child labor laws arise. Criminal violations of child labor laws are considered misdemeanors and are punishable with fines of up to $10,000, county jail time for up to six months, or both.


  • Minors in California can obtain work permits by applying to their local school districts, but many stipulations apply to their ability to work legally.

Related Articles