Using Teen Labor

Using Teen Labor

The following is a checklist of what to have on file and regulations to follow when employing teen workers. There are three things an employer must have to employ youth under age 18:


1.       Obtain and post a minor work permit

The employer is responsible for obtaining and posting a current minor work permit. The permit is an endorsement on the employer’s Business License. In order to obtain one, an application to amend the business license must be submitted to the Department of Revenue’s Business Licensing Services (BLS). It is preferable to do this on-line at For questions contact BLS at or 800.451.7985. There is a $19 processing fee. The permit must be renewed annually. Employers will receive reminders for this from BLS.


2.       Parent/School Authorization Form

This form is available on L&I’s teen worker page ( or can be provided to you by L&I. It must be signed by the parent or guardian and a school representative when it is in session. All parent/ school authorization forms expire each year on September 30th if the minor will continue to work during the new school year. This form must include the minor’s job description, including a complete description of his or her duties, earliest and latest work hours, and total number of hours of work per week. Special Variance: this form has the additional “Special Variance” signatures block which allows 16- and 17-year old minors to work up to 6 hours per day and up to 28 hours per week. There is a new Parent Authorization form that can be used when school is not in session since a school signature is not needed:


3.       Proof of age.

Obtain and keep on file proof of age for each minor, such as a copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license, school ID, baptismal record or notarized statement from a parent or legal guardian.


Other information to keep on file

Maintain records of work schedules, rest and meal breaks, and a copy of the minor’s social security card [except for the Social Security card, name, address, DOB is on the PSA and/or proof of age documents]. It is strongly recommended that businesses keep time cards as well as work schedules. In the event of a wage claim, industrial relations agents don’t count work schedules, only time cards. Provide meal periods and rest breaks.


Fourteen- and 15-year-old workers

Fourteen- and 15-year-old workers may not work more than four hours without a 30-minute, uninterrupted meal period that is separate from and in addition to rest breaks. These minors must also be provided a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every two hours worked. Since the purpose of meal periods and rest breaks is to provide rest from work, they should not be scheduled near the beginning of a work shift.

Noncompliance with Washington’s teen labor laws can mean possible fines or loss of permits for your restaurant. Because of these and other restrictions imposed on 14- and 15-year-old workers, the Washington Hospitality Association recommends against hiring teens under the age of 16.


Ensure that teen workers are not performing prohibited duties

Minors are prohibited from any work that may put them at risk for injury. Prohibited activities include operating meat slicers or powered bakery equipment, driving a forklift, working in freezers or meat coolers, and preparing meats for sale. Additionally, minors under the age of 16 may not cook or bake. A more detailed list of prohibited duties can be found at:


Observe wage laws

The minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-old workers is the same as for adults. Minors under the age of 16 may be paid 85 percent of the state minimum wage.


Comply with limitations on work hours

State regulations limit the number of hours that teens can work, as illustrated in the table below. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds who are married, are parents, have acquired their G.E.D., are registered in accredited college courses, or have been legally emancipated may work the non-school hours year-round, without a variance. However, prohibited-duties restrictions still apply.


Hours and Schedules Minors are Permitted to Work in Non-Agricultural Jobs
Hours a Day Hours a Week Days a Week Begin Quit
14-15 year-olds
School weeks 3 hours

(8 hours Sat.-Sun.)

16 hours 6 days 7 a.m. 7 p.m.
Non-school weeks 8 hours 40 hours 6 days 7 a.m. 7 p.m.

(9 p.m. June 1 to Labor Day)

16-17 year-olds
School weeks 4 hours

(8 hours Fri.-Sun.)

20 hours 6 days 7 a.m. 10 p.m.

(Midnight Fri.-Sat.)

School weeks with a special variance 6 hours

(8 hours Fri.-Sun.)

28 hours 6 days 7 a.m. 10 p.m.

(Midnight Fri.-Sat.)

Non-school weeks 8 hours 48 hours 6 days 5 a.m. Midnight


For more information, see:


Obtain variances when necessary

Before a 16- or 17-year-old worker may work extra hours, the employer must obtain a special variance (for teens working up to 6 hours per day and 28 hours per school week) or a regular variance (for teens working more than 28 hours per school week). Special variances require approval from the parent, teen, business, and school, but not from L&I. Regular variances must be approved by L&I and will only be granted if the business and teen feel there is “good cause,” and if the extra hours will not be harmful to the teen. For more information on variances, visit the L&I teen worker website:


Be aware of potential penalties for noncompliance

L&I may revoke a restaurant’s minor work permit if working conditions are detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of minor workers. Additionally, civil penalties of $1,000 or more may be assessed against businesses.


For more information, view L&I’s guide to permitted and prohibited work for teens at


If you have any further questions about this topic or others, see the Department of Labor & Industries’ Help for Small Business page at


Rev. 12/31/17


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Washington Hospitality Association here.

View the Table of Contents

Categories: HERO