Generally, there is no maximum number of hours that a 17-year-old can work in a day or week. However, a few states have employment laws and child labor laws that do limit how many hours a 17-year-old can work. Federal regulations also prohibit 17-year-olds from working in certain industries. They also limit the hours that younger minors can work.
What is the maximum number of hours a 17-year-old can work?
Federal law does not set a maximum number of hours for 17-year-olds to work. However, a couple of state laws cap how long you can work. Federal law does cap how long younger workers can be on the job, though.
Additionally, both state and federal laws regulate where minors can work, keeping them out of unsafe working conditions.
On the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)1 controls labor practices. Regulations by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) also cover child labor issues and the employment of minors.2
These regulations, however, do not cap the number of hours that minors aged 16 or 17 can work. Instead, they only limit the number of hours that minors aged 15 or younger can work.3 This means that 17-year-olds can work full-time up to, or even over, 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a workweek. If they work in excess of these hours, though, they are entitled to overtime pay.4 Other hours must be paid at least the federal minimum wage.5
Some state laws provide stronger protections for minors. For example, Colorado generally forbids employers from working minors under the age of 18 more than:
- 40 hours in a week, or
- 8 hours in a period of 24 consecutive hours.6
When a state has child labor laws that are more protective for minors than federal law, the more protective law applies.
Most states do not have more protective laws, though. For example, the following states follow the federal rules that do not cap hours worked by a 17-year-old:
- New Mexico,
- Texas, and
What about for younger minors?
The FLSA does limit the number of hours that can be worked by 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds. The number of allowable hours depends on whether school is in session or not.
When school is in session, these minors can work up to:
- 18 hours in a school week, and
- 3 hours in a day.7
When school is not in session, they can work up to:
- 40 hours of work in a non-school week, and
- 8 hours in a day.8
School is in session when the local public school district requires students to attend school for at least part of the day.9
All of these hours must be worked outside of school hours.10 These school hours are set by the local public school district where the minor resides.11 Additionally, these hours must be worked between:
- 7am and 7pm, or
- 7am and 9pm during the summer between June 1 and Labor Day.12
There are limited exemptions to these hour restrictions, like for minors who:
- have graduated high school,
- have had their school attendance requirements waived for a legitimate reason,
- are forbidden from school attendance by a court order,
- work at professional sporting events,
- are enrolled in a school-supervised work-experience and career exploration program, or
- participate in a work-study program.13
Just like with minors aged 16 and over, state law may provide more extensive protections. For example, some states require an employment certificate signed by the minor’s parents and employer.
Can minors work any job they want?
No, federal law prohibits minors from working in certain industries and in certain hazardous jobs.
Under the DOL’s regulations, minors under 18 cannot work jobs that would require them to use:
- bakery machines,14
- saws or sawmills,15 or
- power-driven hoisting machines, like cranes.16
Additionally, certain industries are entirely off-limits to minors under 18, including:
- excavation work,17
- meatpacking or other jobs slaughtering animals,18
- roofing work,19 and
State child labor laws may go further. They may also forbid work in other industries.
What is the law in California?
California has child labor laws that are very protective of minors. While the legal working age in California is 14, minors generally need a work permit before they can get a job. Additionally, 17-year-olds benefit from legal protections that go further than federal laws and regulations.
Unlike federal law, California law does limit how many hours a 17-year-old can work. In California, minors aged 16 or 17 can work up to:
- 48 hours per workweek,
- 8 hours per workday, if it is not a schoolday or if it is a day before a non-schoolday, and
- 4 hours per day on schooldays.21
These hours that a minor works must be limited to the time between:
- 5am and 12:30am, if the next day is a non-schoolday, or
- 5am and 10pm.22
These limitations ensure that minors do not perform night work.
Additionally, California law has more prohibited occupations that minors 17 years of age cannot work. The following types of hazardous occupations cannot be performed by minors under 18:
- railroad work,
- work on a boat,
- driving a car or a truck,
- work on a scaffold,
- work that requires you to be in a tunnel, mine, excavation, or a quarry,
- any job that uses or makes dangerous acids or dyes,
- jobs that produce a lot of dust, or
- any type of job that is unhealthy or dangerous.23
Some other jobs can only be done with adult supervision. One example is handling alcoholic beverages at a package store.24
Generally, 17-year-old minors need parental permission to get a work permit to work other, non-prohibited jobs. These permits expire at the end of the school year.25
California also provides exceptions to these rules for young minors doing certain jobs. For example, 13-year-olds can perform odd jobs like babysitting and yard care.26 Minors 14 and under can also do door-to-door sales jobs, so long as they have adult supervision.27
- 29 USC 201 et seq.
- 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 570.31 et seq.
- 29 CFR 570.35.
- 29 USC 207.
- 29 USC 206.
- CRS 8-12-105 and 8-12-103.
- 29 CFR 570.35.
- 29 CFR 570.35(b).
- 29 CFR 570.35(a)(1).
- 29 CFR 570.35(b).
- 29 CFR 570.35(a)(6).
- 29 CFR 570.35(c).
- 29 CFR 570.52.
- 29 CFR 570.54.
- 29 CFR 570.58.
- 29 CFR 570.68.
- 29 CFR 570.61.
- 29 CFR 570.67.
- 29 CFR 570.54.
- California Education Code 49112 and 49116 EC, and California Labor Code 1391 LAB.
- California Labor Code 1391 LAB.
- California Labor Code 1294 LAB.
- California Business and Professions Code 25663(b) BPC.
- California Education Code 49118 EC.
- 18 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 114, August 31, 1951.
- See California Labor Code 1308.01(a) LAB, California Education Code 49111 EC, and 8 California Code of Regulations (CCR) 11706(a).