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Getting permission for a 16- and 17-year-old teen to work extra hours

If there is "good cause" why a 16- or 17-year-old teen needs to work more hours per week than shown on the chart on Hours of Work, the employer can apply for a variance of:

Up to 28 hours per week — through a Special Variance

Many 16- and 17-year-olds have a reduced school schedule or have demonstrated that they are able to work additional hours on top of their school schedule and extracurricular activities. L&I has delegated the responsibility to grant permission for a minor to work up to eight extra hours during the school week to the parents and the school.

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  • With a special variance, a 16- or 17-year-old teen can work up to 6 hours in a day, with a maximum of 28 hours during a school week in non-agricultural jobs if the school, business, parents, and teens agree that the extra work hours would not be detrimental to the teen's well-being, school attendance or academic performance.
  • The special variance does not require approval from Labor & Industries.
  • A special variance must include signatures of approval from the parent, teen, business, and the school.
  • The special variance is included on page 2 of the regular Parent/School Authorization form.
  • The school must verify that the employer has a valid minor work permit either verbally or by requesting a copy from the business.
  • Important: The school must consider whether the student’s school schedule and school performance can allow for the specific work hours.

More than 28 hours per week — through a Regular Variance

If the extra hours provided by the special variance are not enough, the business can pursue a regular variance with L&I.

  • Expand/collapse Who requests a regular variance?

    The business can request a variance for a 16- or 17-year-old teen worker to be able to work more hours per day or days per week than a special variance would allow if the business and the teen worker feel there is "good cause," and as long as it is not harmful to the teen. The business must have a valid Minor Work Permit. See Hiring Minors. Rarely is a variance granted to allow a minor to work in a prohibited work activity since these duties are considered hazardous to youth. L&I does not grant variances for hours of work or work activities regulated by the federal child labor laws. Regular Variance Application form.

  • Expand/collapse What does "good cause" mean?

    At a minimum, "good cause" refers to the reasons that support the businesses' need for a variance, or the financial need of the teen or the teen's family, or occasionally a teen's special talent. The business must be able to demonstrate that the variance will not be harmful to the health, safety, and welfare of the minor (including school attendance and performance).

  • Expand/collapse How does the business apply for a variance?

    The business must submit a written Variance Application stating the type of variance needed and the reason for it to:

    The Employment Standards program
    Department of Labor & Industries
    PO Box 44510, Olympia, WA 98504-4510
    E-mail: TeenSafety@LNI.wa.gov
    Fax: 360-902-5300


    If necessary, L&I staff may request additional information from the business.

  • Expand/collapse When does a variance expire?

    Most variances expire annually, usually at the same time as the Minor Work Permit, and must be renewed, if applicable. Some variances are specific to a season or period of time and the expiration will be specified in the approval letter the business receives from the department.


For more detail, see L&I Administrative Policy:
Acrobat PDF file School Week and Work Week for Minors (ES.C.4.1) (55 KB PDF)

For more detail, see Washington Administrative Code:
Non-agricultural Employment of Minors (WAC 296-125)

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