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Employing our youth: Do kids have rights when working a summer job?

A summer job is a right of passage. Whether working as a lifeguard on the beach or local pool, making grinders at a sandwich shop, or helping out with summer programs it is important for our children to gain the independence that comes with getting their first job. Although we want to be supportive, parents are also wise to have some questions about the safety of their children when taking on these positions.

Parents are wise to have some concerns, particularly after a recent Department of Labor report finding an increase in child labor investigations and violations since 2015. The number of companies in violation of these laws jumped from 542 in 2015 to 835 in 2022. These numbers, in combination with the fact that states throughout the country are pushing to ease back the protections available for minors in the workplace, may give parents some pause before encouraging their children to work. Almost a dozen states are considering proposals that roll back child labor laws. The proposals allow teens to work in more hazardous situations and extend the working hours for minors. Thus far, the trend has not taken hold in California.

Even so, parents can take some comfort in the fact that their children have rights. Three important things to know to help ensure your teen benefits from these rights before they start work include the following.

#1: California state law requires work permits

The minor must provide the employer with a Permit to Employ and Work before your teen can start their job. The child generally gets this permit at their school.

#2: Age matters

California’s child labor laws apply to those under the age of 18. The restrictions vary depending on the age of the child and type of employment.

Those as young as 12 and 13 can get a job but are limited to summer employment at 8 hours a day, 40 hours per week. Generally, children this age can only work from 7 am to 7 pm. Children 14 and 15 years of age can work during the school year. The state allows for up to 3 hours during the school day and 8 hours on non-school days with a total of 18 hours a week. During the summer they can work 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week generally from 7 am to 7 pm. Those ages 16 and 17 can work up to 4 hours a day on school days and 8 hours a day on non-school days for a total of up to 48 hours per week from 5 am to 10 pm.

There are some exceptions to these rules. Those under the age of 12, for example, are able to work in limited situations — such as in the entertainment industry or at a family business.

It is also important to note that these rules can change. It is a good idea to review the state website or reach out to legal professional to get the most up to date information.

#3: There are legal remedies if your child is the victim of a violation

In addition to these age specific requirements outlined above, minor workers also have many of the same rights as of-age workers. These include the right to breaks, minimum wage, and overtime. Parents can help their children hold employers who fail to follow these rules and regulations accountable. The employer can face both civil and criminal penalties for each violation.