Start of School Means Limits on Work Hours for Teens

The beginning of a new academic year means that a student’s priority should be on school, and businesses need to follow the school-year hours of work limits for teen workers. Employers must also renew Parent/School Authorization forms for their teen workers before Sept. 30.

To hire anyone under the age of 18 in Washington, there are specific laws and rules employers must follow. Businesses who violate minor work restrictions can be subject to fines and civil penalties.

Employers are also subject to federal child labor requirements. When state and federal standards differ, employers must follow the one that is most protective of the minor. For more information on federal child labor requirements, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division website at

If you believe an employer has violated child labor laws, you can file a worker rights complaint through L&I.

Verify that a business can hire teens: Make sure they have the required Minor Work Permit.

Hiring Minors

Before hiring minors in your workplace you must:

  1. Get a minor work permit endorsement on your business license. Apply with the Department of Revenue (DOR) for a minor work permit. L&I reviews all minor work permit requests. Once approved, DOR will issue a new business license with your endorsement. You must post this new business license once you receive it and renew it with DOR every year.
  1. Get a completed parent/school or summer authorization form. Before a minor can begin working, you must get their parent or legal guardian and their school (when in session) to complete the appropriate authorization form below. Keep a copy of these forms for your files.
  1. Verify the minor's age. You must keep a copy of one of the following on file:
    • For non-agricultural jobs.
      • Birth certificate.
      • Driver's license.
      • Baptismal record.
      • Notarized statement from the parent or legal guardian.
  • For agricultural jobs.
    • Birth certificate.
    • Driver’s license.
    • Baptismal or Bible record.
    • Insurance policy at least one year old indicating the date of birth.
    • Notarized statement from the parent or legal guardian.
    • Completed federal employment eligibility verification (I-9).
  • See WAC 296-125-0263 (non-agricultural) or WAC 296-131-130 (agricultural) for details.

Legal Age to Work

The legal age to work in Washington is governed by state and federal child labor laws and varies based on:

  • The type of work (e.g., agricultural or non-agricultural).
  • Whether the job is considered hazardous or has prohibited duties.
  • Whether school is in session.
  • The legal status of the minor (e.g., emancipated minors).
  • Whether the job is exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Non-agricultural work

Minors working in non-agricultural jobs, such as retail, restaurants, manufacturing, construction, etc. are restricted in the jobs, duties, and hours they can work.

  • Under 14 years old – may only work in certain jobs.
    • Newspaper carriers.
    • Casual labor such as raking leaves, shoveling snow, or babysitting.
    • Working at home making evergreen wreaths, including harvesting the evergreens.
    • Unpaid volunteer for charitable and non-profit agencies.

Minor work permit required

  • Actors or performers in movie, theater, radio, or television productions. (See Variance Requirements)
  • Referee for a soccer organization certified by a national referee certification program.
  • Minors with a superior court permission.
  • 14-15 years old
    • Any retail occupation.
    • Intellectual or creative work such as computer, tutoring, teaching, acting.
    • Errands/delivery work by foot, bicycle and public transportation.
    • Clean-up and yard work that does not include using power-driven equipment.
    • Work in connection with vehicles, dispensing gasoline or oil and washing.
    • Cleaning vegetables, fruit, wrapping sealing, and labeling, weighing pricing, and stocking in areas separate from a freezer or meat cooler.
    • 15-year-olds can work as certified lifeguards at pools and water parks.
    • Service occupations such as food service and hospitality, including reheating food, washing dishes, cleaning, waiting tables, etc.
    • All jobs listed for under 14 years old.
  • 16-17 years old
    • Construction jobs — with restrictions on powered tools, machinery, and roof work.
    • Manufacturing jobs — except brick or tile manufacturing, with machine restrictions.
    • Service occupations — such as hospitality, healthcare, and food service. Use of powered food slicers and bakery equipment is prohibited.
    • Sign waving on public right away.
    • Landscaping, including use of some power-driven mowers and certain weed-whackers.
    • Driving — 16-year-olds may move vehicles in parking lot; 17-year-olds may drive on a public roadway on an occasional basis. (see Administrative Policy ES.C.4.3 for details).
    • All jobs listed for 14-15 years old and under 14 years old.

Agricultural work

Most minors working in agricultural jobs have fewer restrictions, but are still restricted in the jobs, duties, and hours they can work.

  • Under 12 years old
    • Minors with a superior court permission.
    • Minors working on a family-owned farm.
  • 12-13 years old – may work during weeks when school is not in session hand-harvesting berries, bulbs, cucumbers and spinach. This exemption is strictly defined. Harvest of any other crop is not allowed under this exemption and mechanical harvesting is prohibited.

Family Farm Exemption - child labor rules for age, wages, prohibited duties, and hours do not apply to immediate family members of farm owners working on the family farm.