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What are the laws around hiring a minor?

There are numerous laws and regulations designed to protect children and adolescents under the age of 18 who want to work in California. There are restrictions about the type of industry and occupation a child can work in, the number of hours in a day or week and minimum wages the employees must receive. Employers who do not follow these laws can face strict penalties.

According to the State of California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, a minor is anyone 17 years of age and younger who must attend school. Minors as young as 15 days can work in the entertainment industry but, in general, work for children under the age of 12 is severely limited. State law defines the number of hours allowed per week and restrictions surrounding school days. For example, work for 12- and 13-year olds is typically only allowed during school holidays and breaks. Older minors can work during a regular school week, but the state limits the number of hours.

The wages paid to minor workers must be at least minimum wage, and employers must pay for overtime. The state also prohibits minors from working in certain occupations. Some examples of work they may not do include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Driving
  • Jobs that require power-driven equipment
  • Roofing
  • Excavation or demolition
  • Any other job that the state deems hazardous

The state of California and the federal government take violations against child labor laws seriously. The U.S. Department of Labor outlines some of the penalties employers may face. For each violation, a civil penalty is a monetary fine of up to $10,000 per minor. The employer may also face jail time, especially if it is a repeat violation.

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