16 and 17 Year Olds

California child labor laws have provisions specifically directed to 16- and 17-year-olds (minor workers), including restrictions on what times during the day they may work, how many hours minors may work in a week, and what jobs or occupations they may perform.The restrictions on the employment for minors under California’s child labor laws are discussed below.


Prohibited Occupations

California child labor laws prohibit employers from employing 16- and 17-year-old minors in any occupation declared particularly hazardous for their employment by the federal government in the Code of Federal Regulations CA Labor Code 1294.1(b).Youth who are 16 and 17 years old are also prohibited from working for any obscene, indecent, or immoral purposes, exhibition, or practice whatsoever, according to the CA Labor Code 1308(a)(3).


Hours of Work

Provided that employers follow child labor law standards and child labor law requirements, California child labor laws permit them to employ 16- and 17-year-olds for the following hours in a workweek and in a workday. Note that absence from school matters, especially observance of days during school hours, is prohibited:

  • Up to four (4) hours on school days outside of school hours
  • Up to eight (8) hours on non-school days or days preceding non-school days
  • Up to 48 hours per week
  • Between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., except on evenings preceding non-school days, 16- and 17-year-olds may work until 12:30 a.m.
  • 14- and 15-year-old youth may not work while school is in session if they have not completed seventh grade
  • Up to eight (8) hours per day on non-school days
  • Up to 48 hours per week
  • Between 7:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., so long as the day precedes non-school days, according to CA Labor Code 1391, 1392 CA Education Code 49112, 49116.

Youth who are 16 and 17 years old and enrolled in career exploration programs or cooperative education programs approved by the California Department of Education may work until 12:30 a.m. on any day and may work more than eight (8) hours on a school day.

For more information, see CA Education Code 49116.

Additionally, 16- and 17-year-olds who work in agricultural packing plants during peak harvest season may work up to 10 consecutive hours on days when school is not in session if they have received special permits for minors from the Labor Commissioner to do so. 

On another note, high school graduates or youth awarded certificates of proficiency may be employed for the same hours as adults, with proof of graduation needed as official proof.

See CA Labor Code 1286 for more information.

Finally, it is crucial not to overlook other factors beyond just determining whether it’s a school week or a few weeks of school holidays.Is the minor attending summer school or a regular day school? These factors are also covered under the Federal Child Labor laws.


Gas Service Stations

Under California child labor laws, youth who are 16 and 17 years old may perform the following activities at gasoline service establishments:

  • Dispensing gas or oil
  • Extending courtesy service
  • Car cleaning, washing, and polishing
  • Performing any duties that 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds are specifically permitted to perform under CA Labor Code 1294.5(a).

Youth who are 16 and 17 years old have to follow some child labor restrictions.

For example, they are not allowed to perform activities at gas service stations that involve the use of pits, racks, or lifting apparatus.

They are also prohibited from doing work that involves inflating tires mounted on a rim equipped with a removable retaining ring.This is according to the CA Labor Code 1294.5(b).


Sports-attending services

California child labor laws permit youth who are 16 and 17 years old to perform sports-attending services in professional baseball outside of school hours for up to five (5) hours on a school day. CA Labor Code 1295.5(b)

California child labor laws permit youth who are 16 and 17 years old to perform sports-attending services in professional baseball outside of school hours for up to five (5) hours on a school day.

In other states, minors may even work as athletic program referees. See CA Labor Code 1295.5(b) for more information. 

Employment Requirements and Specific Restrictions for Minors

Crucial in the work of 16- and 17-year-olds is securing a work permit as an official document.

Employers need to have a valid, current permit to employ and operate before allowing minors to work for them.

This applies to various industries, especially entertainment. This may involve the employment of minors in theater establishments, photography gallery establishments, and the like.

It is very important to secure these required permits when thinking about the employment of minors.

Also in place for minors is sexual harassment prevention training as part of their protection.

Based on the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, an age certification document is needed for proof of age.

A certified baptismal certificate and birth certificate are no longer required, provided that minors are already of school age.

These were simply required in the past to serve as proof of age.

Other than employment requirements, note that there are restrictions that vary depending on the nature of work.

For example, jobs with beverages for sale are not allowed for minors if alcohol is served.

Is the minor going to take on a hazardous occupation? There are instances when direct, on-site adult supervision is needed.

As for restaurants, one must be a 16-year-old employee if food items are to be prepared out of sight of clients.

However, 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds are allowed if handling food is done in public views, such as working the French fryer.

Remember that any complaint regarding child labor law violations must be reported to the Department of Labor.


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We hope you find our newsletters help you better navigate employment and labor law issues.