In California, a work permit is something that you generally need in order to work if you are under the legal working age. It is also known as a Permit to Employ and Work. However, there are exceptions to the requirement. There are also some jobs that minors cannot perform, as well as limits on the hours they can work.
When are work permits required in California?
California’s child labor laws require there to be a work permit to get a job if you:
- are a minor under the age of 18, and
- still have not graduated high school.1
However, you do not need a work permit in order to:
- irregularly perform odd jobs in private homes for compensation, like babysitting or yard work, or
- run your own business or work in a self-employed capacity.2
How do I get one?
You can request a work permit from your school. The request is called a “Statement of Intent to Employ a Minor and Request for Work Permit – Certificate of Age.” The work permit application form is also available on the State of California Department of Education (CDE) website. The requesting document must be signed by a parent or legal guardian.3
The request can be approved by officials in the local school district office. If approved, these officials would issue a Permit to Employ and Work to the minor.
This California work permit lays out:
- where you can work,
- what role you can work in,
- how many hours you are allowed to work in a day and in a week,
- the range of hours you can work during the day, and
- any additional restrictions on your work.4
It also includes other information, like:
- the minor’s name and Social Security Number,
- public school information or charter school site,
- which permit type is being issued:
- general, or
- work experience education.
Your employer must keep a copy of the Permit to Employ and Work on the premises. It must be made available for officials to inspect.5 Many employers keep it in the human resources (HR) department.
The issuance of your work permit can be revoked if:
- the job is harming your health or education, or
- the conditions of the work permit are not being followed.6
The work permit expires 5 days after the start of the next school year.7
Are there jobs I can work without one?
Yes, if you are under the legal working age in California, you can still work certain jobs without a permit, like:
- lawn mowing, and
- working a paper route.
You can work these jobs even if you are under the age of 12.
How old do I have to be to work?
The general rule in California is that you have to be at least 14 years old to work. This is the state’s legal working age. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Some jobs can be done by minors under the age of 12, without a work permit. These are:
- agricultural jobs, including in a zone of danger, so long as you are employed by a parent or legal guardian who owns, controls, or operates the premises,8 and
- irregular odd jobs in private homes, including:
- babysitting, and
- yard work.9
Children over the age of 12 can work to sell the following items without a work permit:
- candy, cookies, flowers, or other items in a door-to-door manner or at a fixed location on the street or sidewalk,10 and
- newspapers, periodicals, magazines, or circulars, so long as the children are within 50 miles of home.11
However, to work these sales jobs, you must follow strict rules of adult supervision.12
You can also be a child actor if you are under 12, though you need a work permit.13
Are there any jobs that I cannot work?
There are some jobs that minors are prohibited from having, depending on their age.
California state law forbids minors under 16 years of age from working:
- as a car or truck driver,
- on a railroad,
- on scaffolding,
- in a boat,
- in tunnels, excavations, mines, or quarries,
- jobs that make or use dangerous or poisonous acids or dyes, or that produce large amounts of dust,
- tobacco manufacturing jobs, or
- any other job that is unhealthy or dangerous.14
Additionally, federal laws and regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) forbid minors under 18 from working:
- in the roofing15 or the excavation industries,16
- in the logging industry or in a sawmill,17
- jobs that involve operating bakery machines,18
- with cranes or any other power-driven hoisting machines,19 and
- in the meatpacking industry.20
Some child labor laws only forbid minors from working certain jobs in certain conditions. For example, you can work in a package store that sells alcohol so long as you are under constant supervision by someone over the drinking age.21
How many hours can I work?
The number of hours that you can work depends on 3 factors:
- your age,
- whether the day or the day following is a schoolday, and
- whether school is in session.
16 and 17 year olds can work:
- 4 hours a day on school days,
- 8 hours a day on a non-schoolday or on days before a non-schoolday, and
- up to 48 hours per week.22
14 and 15 year olds can work:
- 3 hours a day on school days, but not during school hours,
- 8 hours a day on non-schooldays, and
- up to 18 hours per week, or up to 40 hours per week if school is not in session.23
Minors 14 and older can only work while school is in session if they have completed the 7th grade.24
Minors who are 12 or 13 years old cannot work on school days. They can only work on school vacations or holidays.25
These work hours must be between:
- 5am and 10pm, or until 12:30am if the next day is not a schoolday, if you are 16 or 17 years old,
- 7am and 7pm, or until 9pm between June 1 and Labor Day, if you are 15 or under.26
Do I still have to go to school?
Yes, though the rules depend on your age.
If you are under the age of 16, you have to maintain school attendance on a full-time basis, unless you have graduated from high school.
If you are 16 or 17 years old and have not graduated high school, you must attend continuation school for at least:
- 4 hours per week, if you are regularly employed, or
- 15 hours per week, if you are not regularly employed.
What are the rules for the entertainment industry?
To work in the entertainment industry,27 all minors must have a Permit to Employ and Work. Only the Labor Commissioner at the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) can issue work permits for the entertainment industry. Minors as young as 15 days old can get one.28
- California Education Code 49160 and 49101 EC.
- 18 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 114, August 31, 1951.
- California Education Code 49110(c) EC.
- California Education Code 49115 and 49163 EC.
- California Labor Code 1299 LAB.
- California Education Code 49164 EC.
- California Education Code 49118 EC.
- California Labor Code 1293.1 and 1394 LAB.
- 18 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 114, August 31, 1951.
- See California Labor Code 1308.01(a) LAB (allowing children as young as 6 to work these jobs) but also California Education Code 49111 EC (requiring that a child be at least 12 years old to have a work permit).
- California Labor Code sections 1308.01(b) and 1298 LAB.
- 8 California Code of Regulations (CCR) 11706(a).
- California Labor Code 1308.5 LAB.
- California Labor Code 1294 LAB.
- 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 570.67.
- 29 CFR 570.68.
- 29 CFR 570.54.
- 29 CFR 570.52.
- 29 CFR 570.58.
- 29 CFR 570.61.
- California Business and Professions Code 25663(b) BPC.
- California Education Code 49112 and 49116 EC, and California Labor Code 1391 LAB.
- California Education Code 49112 and 49116 EC, and California Labor Code 1391 and 1392 LAB.
- California Education Code 49112 EC.
- California Education Code 49111 EC.
- California Labor Code 1391 LAB.
- As defined by 8 CCR 11751.
- California Labor Code 1308.8 LAB.