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Napa, CA 94559

Hiring a Minor

Dear Mary,

My youngest daughter wants an after-school job. I have a small business and I’d love to have her come work for me a few hours a week. What do I need to know about hiring a minor?

It all depends on your daughter’s age and what kind of business you have. There are federal and state regulations for youth employment, and when in doubt, the stricter of the two usually applies.

Federal law, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, restricts the age, job duties, and the hours that a minor employee may work. California law incorporates some of the federal regulations, including regulations against oppressive and hazardous jobs.

California’s child labor laws apply to any person under 18 who is required to attend school, any nonresident who would be subject to education laws, and any person under age 6.

Minors may work for their parents in agricultural, horticultural, viticultural or domestic labor occupations. They must work during nonschool hours or when public schools are not in session, and they must work at or connected to the premises owned or controlled by the parent.

Minors may work in certain limited entertainment events. These include singing or playing musical instruments in a church or school, participating in a horseback riding event, and showing livestock at fairs and exhibitions. When in doubt about entertainment employment, minors should get written consent from the Labor Commissioner’s office.

Minors may be employed under the same standards as adults after receiving a high school diploma or equivalent education.

Minors under age 12 may babysit or do “odd jobs” in private households. Minors 12 and older may obtain a work permit from school authorities. Minors 14 and older may perform office work, cashiering, modeling, or work in advertising departments, including trimming windows. They can also price, bag or carry merchandise for customers, run errands, and do cleanup work. Some kitchen work is allowed, including preparing and serving meals.

Minors are generally prohibited from dangerous, injurious, obscene, indecent, or immoral work and any mendicant or wandering business.

Minors under 16 are prohibited from most manufacturing work, operating, maintaining or working in proximity to machinery, working on a railroad, vessel, or boat, any work involving poisonous chemicals, any work on scaffolding, anything involving tobacco, or operating vehicles.

After sufficient vocational training, approved apprenticeships or work experience programs, and with parental approval, some otherwise prohibited activities may be allowable.

There are specific standards regarding minimum hours for children in the entertainment industry, beginning with infants. Contact the Labor Commissioner’s office for written consent and more information about these rules.

There are also specific limitations on how many and between what hours minors may work, dependant upon the minor’s age and whether or not it’s a school day.

Contact the California Department of Industrial Relations website for useful resources, including a comprehensive child labor law booklet:

Mary Luros is a business law attorney with Hudson & Luros, LLP, in Napa, and can be reached at or 418-5118. The information provided here is not intended as legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship with the author. The author makes no representations as to the reliability or accuracy of the above information. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need disclaimers — or attorneys.

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