Teen Workers

Many teens are injured at work, yet few get any education about workplace safety. Youth who are informed about workplace safety (including both safe work practices and their legal rights) are more likely to have positive job experiences and less likely to get hurt.

Factsheets

This factsheet answers common questions about working teens, laws, and hazards.

If you work in agriculture, different laws apply.


For a complete list of our materials for teens, visit our For Teens page.


What are some of my rights on the job?

By law, your employer must provide:

  • A safe and healthful workplace.
  • Training about health and safety, including information on chemicals that could be harmful to your health.
  • Training about what to do in an emergency.
  • Protective clothing and equipment, such as gloves or goggles.
  • Payment for medical care if you get hurt or sick because of your job. You may also be entitled to lost wages.
  • At least the California minimum wage, $8.00 an hour through June 30, 2014 and $9.00 an hour starting July 1, 2014. In some cases, employers can pay less than the minimum wage for up to 160 hours of “training” work if you have no previous experience.
  • A 30 minute meal break after no more than 5 hours and a 10 minute rest period after each 4 hours.
  • For more information call the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement at: 1-888-275-9243.

You also have a right to:

  • Report safety problems to Cal/OSHA, the state agency that enforces workplace health and safety regulations.
  • Work without racial or sexual harassment.
  • Refuse to work if the job is immediately dangerous to your life or health.
  • Join or organize a union.

What are my safety responsibilities on the job?

To work safely you should:

  • Follow all safety rules and instructions.
  • Use safety equipment and protective clothing when needed.
  • Keep work areas clean and neat.
  • Know what to do in an emergency.
  • Report any health and safety hazards to your supervisor.
  • Get help if your supervisor won’t listen or correct an unsafe condition.

Is It OK to Do Any Kind of Work?

NO. There are laws that protect teens from doing dangerous work.

In California no worker under 18 may: Also, no one 14 or 15 years old may:
  • Drive a motor vehicle on public streets as a main part of the job (17-year-olds may drive in a few specific cases.)
  • Drive a forklift or other heavy equipment
  • Use powered equipment like a circular saw, box crusher, meat slicer, or bakery machine
  • Work in wrecking, demolition, excavation, or roofing
  • Work in logging or a sawmill
  • Prepare, serve, or sell alcoholic drinks
  • Work where the teen is exposed to radiation
  • Do any baking
  • Cook (except with electric or gas grills that do not involve cooking over an open flame and with deep fat fryers that automatically lower and raise the baskets)
  • Work in dry cleaning or a commercial laundry
  • Do building, construction, or manufacturing work
  • Load or unload a truck, railroad car, or moving belt.
  • Work on a ladder or scaffold

Should I Be Working This Late or This Long?

Child labor laws protect teens from working too long, too late, or too early.

This table shows the hours teens may work. (Some school districts may have more strict rules. Also, there are some exceptions for teens in work experience education programs.)

  Ages 14-15: Ages 16-17:
Work Hours
  • 7 am–7 pm, from Labor Day–June 1
  • Not during school hours
  • 7 am–9 pm, from June 1–Labor Day
  • 5 am–10 pm when there is school the next day
  • 5 am–12:30 am when there is no school the next day
The most hours you can work when school is in session

18 hours a week, but not over:

  • 3 hours a day on school days
  • 8 hours a day Saturday–Sunday and holidays

48 hours a week, but not over:

  • 4 hours a day Monday–Thursday
  • 8 hours a day Friday–Sunday and holidays
The most hours you can work when school is not in session
  • 40 hours a week
  • 8 hours a day
  • 48 hours a week
  • 8 hours a day

Are There Other Things I Can’t Do?

YES. There are other rules about the type of work you can and cannot do.

You must be at least 14 years old for most jobs except for informal jobs like babysitting or yard work. Check with your state labor department, school counselor, or job placement coordinator to make sure the job you are doing is allowed.