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HRPG Employer Advisory

Employing Minors in CA:
What Employers Should Know

Summer is a great time to hire student workers, but employers must familiarize themselves with the regulations of employing minors. Many workers under the age of 18 are subject to specific protections under California's child labor regulations. As defined by the California Labor Code, a "minor" is defined as any person under the age of 18 years who is required to attend school under the provisions of the Education Code, including all minors under age six.

Are Any Minors Excluded?

Excluded: The California Labor Code entirely excludes any high school graduate under the age of 18 from the compulsory education laws, permit requirements, work hour restrictions, and all occupational prohibitions. Under federal regulations, high school graduates under 18 may not be employed in an occupation prohibited to minors under 18 unless they also have completed a bona fide course of training in that occupation.

Emancipated minors are subject to all California's child labor laws, with the exception that they may apply for a work permit without their parents' permission. "Dropouts" are still subject to California's compulsory education laws, and thus are subject to all state child labor requirements.

Additional Exclusions for Parents and Guardians

Specific parent/guardian employers are exempt from California child labor laws, but it is very limited. Exceptions are available for those that employ their minor children in agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, or domestic labor on or in connection with premises that the parent/guardian owns, operates, or controls. Parent/guardian employers that qualify for exclusion in these areas are entirely exempt from both state and federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

Common Mistakes When Employing Minors

  • Paying minors less than the required wages. Employers may not pay minors who have graduated from high school or who have a Certificate of Proficiency less than adult employees in the same establishment for the same quantity and quality of work. Differences in pay may be based on seniority, length of service, ability, skills, difference in the duties or services performed, difference in the shift or time of day worked, hours of work, or other reasonable differentiation exercised in good faith.

  • Allowing minors to start work before acquiring required work permits. Work permits establish the maximum number of days and hours a minor may legally work during the workweek. The permit may also impose other limitations on the scope of the minor's work.

  • Allowing minors to work shifts or hours in excess of what is permitted by law. There are certain restrictions on the number of hours minors may work, as well as the spread of those hours, depending on the worker's age, the industry, and the season of the year. Extended working hours may be permitted under certain circumstances.

What Should You Do?

  • Know which occupations are considered hazardous and do not hire minors in these positions.

  • Acquire work permits and any other required documentation before hiring minors. Work permits are typically available at the school district offices. Have your minor employees renew permits before they expire. Permits issued in one school year expire five days after a new school year begins.

  • Do not employ minors under the age of 14 - except under extremely limited circumstances.

  • Do not employ minors for the purpose of driving a motor vehicle on public highways and streets. This includes delivering any type of goods from a motor vehicle.
  • Do not employ minors in excess of the number of hours established by law.


Employers need to be aware that penalties for violating child labor laws are severe. You can avoid these penalties by conforming to the requirements of employing those under 18.

Human Resources Professional Group is available to answer questions regarding this and other employment related issues.

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