California Child Labor Laws
California child labor laws regulate the employment of youth in the state of California. These laws dictate the ages and the times as well as the types of work they may perform. Generally, speaking children 13 years old or younger may not work in California, except in some limited situations. Youth who are 14 and 15 years old may work in a broader range of jobs, but are significantly limited in the number of hours per day and per week they may work, especially when school is in session. Youth who are 16 and 17 years old may work in a broad range jobs, but cannot work in those jobs that have been explicitly deemed to be too hazardous. The detail of California’s child labor laws are discussed below.
Definition of minor
California child labor laws define a minor as any person under 18 years old who is required to attend school pursuant to California’s Education Code and any child under six years of age. It also includes any individual who is not required to attend school pursuant to California’s Education Code only because they are a nonresident. CA Labor Code 1286(c)
California child labor laws require youth under 18 years of age to have a permit to work before they may legally work in California, unless an exclusion applies. For more information, visit our California Child Labor Laws – Permit to Employ and Work page.
12 and 13 year olds
Child labor laws generally only permit 12 and 13 year olds to work on regular school holidays, during the regular vacation of public schools, and during specified occasional public school vacations. They may not work on any regular school day, either before or after school. CA Education Code 49111, 49112, 49116 A permit to employ and work may be issued to a 13 year old to work up to 2 hours on a school day and up to 4 hours in a workweek if the youth has completed sixth grade, been identified as a potential dropout, and participates in an employment program conducted on school premises and sponsored by one or more school districts. CA Education Code 49112
California child labor laws have provisions specifically directed to 14 and 15 year olds, including restrictions on what times during a day 14 and 15 year olds may work, how many hours in a week they many work, and what jobs or occupations they may perform. For more information, visit our California Child Labor laws – 14 and 15 year olds page.
California child labor laws have provisions specifically directed to 16 and 17 year olds, including restrictions on what times during a day 16 and 17 year olds may work, how many hours in a week they many work, and what jobs or occupations they may perform. For more information, visit our California Child Labor laws – 16 and 17 year olds page.
Career training, apprenticeships, and other training
California child labor laws exempts youth from occupational restrictions, except for manufacturing, if they are enrolled in one of the following programs:
- courses of training in vocational or manual training schools or in state institutions
- apprenticeship training provided in an approved apprenticeship training program
- work experience education programs conducted pursuant to either or both CA Education Code Section 51760-51769.5, provided that the work experience coordinator determines that the students have been sufficiently trained in the employment or work otherwise prohibited by these sections, if parental approval is obtained, and the principal or the counselor of the student has determined that the progress of the student toward graduation will not be impaired
Under California child labor laws, youth 14 years of age and older may work in agricultural occupations otherwise prohibited pursuant to federal regulation if the following conditions are met:
- the youth is enrolled as a student-learner in a bona fide vocational agriculture program under a written agreement that provides that the student-learner’s work is incidental to training, intermittent, for short periods of time, and under close supervision of a qualified person, and includes all of the following:
- safety instructions given by the school and correlated with the student-learner’s on-the-job training
- a schedule of organized and progressive work processes for the student-learner
- the name of the student-learner
- the signature of the employer and a school authority, each of whom must keep copies of the agreement
- youth who are 14 or 15 years of age hold certificates of completion of either a tractor operation or a machine operation program and who are working in the occupations for which they have been trained. The employers employing minors who have completed such a program must keep a copy of the certificates of completion on file with the youth’s records
- youth who are 14 and 15 years old who hold certificates of completion of either a tractor operation or a machine operation program of the United States Office of Education Vocational Agriculture Training Program and are working in the occupations for which they have been trained. Employers employing minors who have completed this program must keep a copy of the certificate of completion on file with the minor’s records.
California child labor laws permit youth of 12 years of age and older to deliver newspapers to consumers by foot, bicycle, or public transportation. Additionally, 16 and 17 year old youth may deliver newspapers to consumers by driving an automobile. CA Labor Code 1294.4(c); CA Labor Code 1298 Additionally, minors engaged in the processing and delivery of newspapers may enter areas of a newspaper plant, other than areas where printing presses are located, for purposes related to the processing or delivery of newspapers. CA Labor Code 1294.1(c)
California child labor laws require employers who employ, either directly or through a third party, youth under the age of 16 in any location more than 10 miles from the youth’s residence to register with the Labor Commissioner in California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Additionally, any individual who is 18 years of age who transports, or directs or supervises during transportation, a minor under 16 years of age to any location more than 10 miles from the minor’s residence, or directs or supervises a minor, for the purpose of facilitating the minor’s participation in door-to-door sales of any merchandise or commodity must register with the Labor Commissioner in California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The registration must be renewed on an annual basis. An application for registration may be obtained from California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. CA Labor Code 1308.2, 1308.3
California child labor laws allow youth of almost any age to work in the entertainment industry subject to several restrictions and limitations. For more information, visit our California Child Labor Laws – Entertainment Industry page.
California child labor laws require employers who employ youth, either directly or indirectly through a third party, to keep on file all permits and certificates to work related to the youth. The employers must allow attendance and probation officers, the State Board of Education, and the officers of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement to inspect the files at any time. CA Labor Code 1299; CA Education Code 49161
Right of access
Attendance supervisors or probation offices of any county, city, or school district in which any place of employment is situated as well as designees of the Labor Commissioner and officers of the Superintendent of Public Instruction may at any time, enter the place of employment for the purpose of examining youth permits to work or for the purpose of investigating any California child labor law violations. Failure to permit access as required constitutes a violation of the child labor laws. CA Labor Code 1302; CA Education Code 49164
Citations and Penalties
When the California Department of Industrial Relations conducts an investigation and determines an employer has violated California child labor laws, it will issue a citation to the employer explaining the nature of the violation and whether the violation is a Class A or Class B violation. CA Labor Code 1287-88 An employer may contest a citation within 15 business days after receiving the citation by requesting a formal hearing from the office of the Labor Commissioner that appears on the citation. CA Labor Code 1289 Citations may also be issued to anyone who owns or controls the real property on which the youth works if the youth works for the person who owns or controls the property and the person has knowingly permitted the violation. CA Labor Code 1301
Class A violations
The California Department of Industrial Relations issues Class A citations for all violations of California child labor laws except those subject to Class B citations. Employers who commit Class A violations of California child labor laws are subject to a civil penalty not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000 for each and every violation. Employers who are found to have willfully or repeatedly violated California child labor laws will subject to greater penalties than those issued to nonwillful or first time violators. CA Labor Code 1288(a)
Class B violations
The California Department of Industrial Relations issues Class B citations for the following violations of California child labor laws:
- failing to maintain proper records
- failing to grant access to record to authorities
- failing to obtain written consent from the Labor Commissioner to employ youth in the entertainment industry
- for the first and second instances of employing youth outside of permitted hours (offenses after the second are subject to Class A citations
Employers who commit Class B violations of California child labor laws are subject to a civil penalty not less than $500 and not more than $1,000 for each and every violation. Employers who are found to have willfully or repeatedly violated California child labor laws will subject to greater penalties than those issued to nonwillful or first time violators. CA Labor Code 1288(b)
Employers who violate California child labor laws may be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 and no more than $5,000 and/or six months in the county jail. Employers who willfully violate the child labor laws may be subject to fine of no more than $10,000 and/or six months in the county jail. An individual may only be sentence to time in jail if they have previously violated California child labor laws. CA Labor Code 1303, 1308