Many Washington employers hire workers under the age of 18 to work in a variety of jobs, but they need to follow special rules. Employment of children between 14 and 17 is governed by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Absent limited exceptions, such as for agricultural or theatrical jobs, children younger than 14 ordinarily cannot be employed at all.

Federal and state regulations regarding the employment of 14- to 17-year olds are found on the DOL and L&I sites. The regulations include specific requirements and limitations unique to minor employees in areas such as hours of work, meal and rest breaks, and prohibited job duties.

In Washington, employers must also obtain a minor work permit through L&I on their Master Business License for each work location with employees under the age of 18, and renew the permit annually. The minor work permit application may be completed online.

In addition to posting the minor work permit, Washington employers must also maintain the following information about each minor worker in a file at the minor’s work site:

1. Personal data: Name, address, and a copy of the minor’s Social Security card and other appropriate employment documents including an I-9.

2. Proof of age: Copy of birth certificate, driver’s license, baptismal record, etc.

3. Job description: Must include equipment used, such as copiers, computers, power equipment, or vehicles.

4. Work schedule: Must show earliest and latest work hours (download chart showing work hour limits, PDF).

5. Parent/School Authorization Form: signed by parent/guardian and high school (if in session).

6. Special Variance Form: For a 16- or 17-year old high school student who wants or needs to work more than four hours a day or 20 hours per week (up to maximum 28 hours per week), a special variance form is available from the student’s high school.

7. Position funding: Must pay at least minimum wage, currently $8.67/hour (effective January 1, 2010).

Employers must maintain employment records for three years after hiring a minor employee.

Civil and criminal penalties may be assessed for violations of state or federal child labor regulations. Under federal law, child labor violations by employers may be subject to a civil penalty up to $11,000 per minor worker.

If you have questions about employment of minor workers, please contact the Foster Pepper Employment and Labor Relations Practice Group.