As the temperatures rise, many employers, including those in the retail industry, may be fielding applications from minors looking for summer work.  Before hiring applicants under the age of 18, it’s important to understand the requirements that apply to that segment of the workforce. 

Minimum Age to Work

For most employers, a minor must be at least 14 years of age to work.

Work Permits

In California, most minors under the age of 18 must have a permit to work. After an employer agrees to hire a minor – and before the minor may begin working – the minor must obtain a Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work from their school.  The minor and the employer complete the form, and the form must be signed by the minor’s guardian and the employer.  After the minor returns the form to the school, school officials may issue the Permit to Employ and Work. The permit will state the maximum number of hours the minor may work per day and week, the range of hours during the day that the minor may work, any limitations, and any additional restrictions imposed at the school’s discretion.

A permit that is issued during the school year will expire five days after the start of the next school year. During the summer, minors may obtain work permits from the superintendent of the school district where the minor lives.  Permits are required even when school is not in session; i.e. during summer break.

High school graduates and minors who have received a certificate of proficiency are exempt from permit requirements.

Hours of Work

California law places limits on the number of hours per day and week that a minor may work.  The limitations vary depending on the age of the minor and whether school is in session. 

The following is a general summary of some of the key limitations:

 16 & 17-Year-Olds14 and 15-Year-Olds
When school is in session4 hours per day on a school day 8 hours on a non-school day Limited to 48 hours per week3 hours per school day outside of school hours8 hours on a non-school dayLimited to 18 hours per week
When school is not in session8 hours per dayLimited to 48 hours per week8 hours per day Limited to 40 hours per week

There are also limitations on the time of day that a minor may work based on their age and whether school is in session.

Type of Work to be Performed

Employers should be aware that California and federal law dictate the type of work that minors may perform.  For example, 14- and 15-year-old employees may perform the following types of work in the retail and food service industries:

  • Office and clerical work
  • Cashiering, selling, modeling, art work, work in advertising departments, window trimming, and comparative shopping
  • Price marking and tagging by hand or by machine, assembling orders, packing and shelving
  • Bagging and carrying out customers’ orders
  • Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, or public transportation
  • Certain types of clean-up work and kitchen work

Employers should ensure that they are not assigning work to minor employees that run afoul of any state or federal restrictions.


Employers must have a valid work permit on file for all minors and make the permits available for inspection by the school and officers of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement at all times.  Employers must also keep a record, for three years, of minor employees’ names, dates of birth, and addresses, and maintain for minor employees the same payroll and timekeeping records required for all employees.

Mandated Reporter

In 2020, California passed a bill that expanded the definition of a mandated reporter. Under the law, a California employer with five or more employees that employ minors must provide training on identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect to the following two classes of mandated reporters: (1) all human resources employees; and (2) all adults whose duties require direct contact with and supervision of minors in the performance of the minors’ duties in the workplace.

If you have questions about the employment of minors or related issues, contact a Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss.