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.

Teen Worker Factsheets

These factsheets answer 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, $11.00 an hour through December 31, 2018 and $11.50 an hour starting January 1, 2019. 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 contact the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

You also have a right to:

  • Report safety problems to Cal/OSHA, the state agency that enforces workplace health and safety regulations.
  • Refuse to work if the job is immediately dangerous to your life or health.
  • Join or organize a union.
What are my safety responsibilities at work?

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

The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) also has a website that outlines your rights on the job and how to stay safe in several common jobs for teens (food service, grocery clerk, etc.)

What if I am being sexually harassed at work?

When someone is doing something sexual that makes you uncomfortable – if you don’t want it, it’s illegal.

Sexual Harassment includes unwanted sexual advances, visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and includes many forms offensive behavior and gender-based harassment. For more details on what constitutes sexual harassment, visit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing website.

It is your employer’s responsibility to:

  • Stop and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace by co-workers, supervisors, or clients
  • Investigate all employee complaints
  • Provide brochures or literature on sexual harassment

What can I do?

  • Say “NO” clearly
  • Document the harassment
  • Get support from family, friends, and/or co-workers
  • Look for witnesses and other victims
  • File a complaint with your employer. You cannot legally be punished or fired for filing a complaint — your job is protected by law
  • If it is not resolved, file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing

Are there sexual harassment factsheets or other tools?

What if I’m being discriminated against?

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against their workers.

Employers also have the responsibility to make sure there is no discrimination in the workplace either by your coworkers or by the clients you serve. California state laws protect workers from being fired, from having job opportunities withheld, or from being otherwise unfairly treated on the basis of: race, color, gender, religion, etc. For more details on what constitutes discrimination, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

If you are covered by a union contract, you might have additional protections.

If you believe you have experienced employment discrimination you should:

  • Document the harassment or discrimination.
  • Get support from family and friends.
  • Talk to your supervisor. You can bring a supportive person with you if you want.
  • Look for witnesses and other victims.
  • File a complaint with your employer. You cannot legally be punished or fired for filing a complaint.
  • If it is not resolved, file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Complaints must be filed within one year from the date of the alleged discrimination.
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.

For more information on age-specific rules on what teens can and cannot do while on the job, visit YouthRules!