Hiring Minors in Washington State

What businesses need to know.

January 11,2024 | Employment, Legal Tips, State Specific, WA

Before hiring anyone under the age of 18 in Washington State, it’s important to understand the legal requirements for doing so. Your business will be required to operate differently with respect to your minor employees than it does with other employees. This article outlines some, but not necessarily all, of the legal requirements you should consider before hiring minors to work at your business in Washington.

Is The Business Licensed To Hire Minors?

You can’t hire minors in Washington unless you have an endorsement on your business license that says you can. You can update your business license to add a minor work permit endorsement by logging into your WA DOR account, and updating your business license.

Do Any Adults Need To Give Permission For the Minor to Work At My Business?

Yes, they do. Before a minor can work, you need permission from their parents. If school is in session, you’ll also need the school’s permission. There are two different forms you’ll use to get this permission depending on the time of year:

Do I Need To Verify the Minor’s Age?

Absolutely. For all employees, adults and minors, you’ll have them fill out a Form I-9 on their first day. When you do that, be sure to check the employee’s birthdate on their I-9 documents to confirm they are or are not a minor.

If they are a minor, then you must take a copy of any of the following and keep them on file:

  • a birth certificate and a social security card;
  • a driver’s license;
  • a baptismal record; or
  • a notarized statement from their parent or legal guardian.
  • For agricultural jobs, you may have to take some extra steps, and more information about that can be found on LNI’s website. t

What Jobs Can Minors Work?

That depends on the age. Here are the guidelines for different age ranges:

Rules That Apply to Washington Businesses Hiring Minors Under 14 Years Old:

Minors under the age of 14 years old can only do very limited jobs in Washington State, and even then a court order might be required to allow the minor to work. If the minor is allowed to work, here are the jobs they can have:

  • Newspaper carriers
  • Casual labor (raking leaves, shoveling snow, babysitting, etc.)
  • Working at home making evergreen wreaths
  • Unpaid volunteer for charitable and non-profit agencies.

Rules That Apply to Washington Businesses Hiring Minors 14-15 Years Old:

As with the younger crowd, the 14-15 year olds are limited in what jobs they can take. They can do all the jobs that younger kids can do, plus the following:

  • Retail
  • Food services,including heating food, washing dishes, cleaning, and waiting tables
  • Hospitality
  • Intellectual or creative work, such as computer work, tutoring, teaching, and acting
  • Running errands and making deliveries, so long as it does not involve any power-driven equipment
  • Working with vehicles, including dispensing gas, changing oil, or washing cars
  • Cleaning fruits and vegetables, including wrapping and sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking, so long as it’s not done in any freezers or meat coolers
  • 15-year-olds may work as certified lifeguards at pools and waterparks

Rules That Apply to Washington Businesses Hiring Minors 16-17 Years Old:

Even when they get to 16 and 17 years old, minors are still limited in what jobs they can perform. They can do all the jobs that younger kids can do, plus the following:

  • Construction (with restrictions relating to power tools, machinery, and roof work)
  • Manufacturing (except brick or tile manufacturing, and machinery restrictions apply)
  • Service industries, including hospitality, healthcare, and food service
  • Sign dancing
  • Moving vehicles in a parking lot
  • 17-year-olds only: occasionally driving on public roadways

Note that these rules change in the agricultural context.

What Hours Can Minors Work?

Once again, the answer varies by age, and some industries may have different requirements. It also depends whether school is in session that week for not. So, here are the limitations that apply to minors working for most Washington small businesses.

Hours Limits for Minors When School Is In Session

Regardless of the minor’s age, they cannot work during regular school hours.

Work hours limits for minors 15 years old and younger when school is in session:

  • 3 hours/day
  • 6 days/week
  • Between 7AM and 7PM
  • No more than 16 hours/week total

Work hours limits for minors 16-17 years old when school is in session:

  • 4 hours/day
  • 6 days/week
  • 7AM-10PM (or midnight on Friday and Saturday nights)
  • No more than 20 hours/week total

Hours Limits for Minors When School Is Not In Session

Work hours limits for minors 15 years old and younger when school is not in session:

  • 8 hours/day
  • 40 hours/week
  • 6 days/week
  • 7AM-7PM (or 9PM in the summer)

Work hours limits for minors 16-17 years old when school is not in session:

  • 8 hours/day
  • 48 hours/week
  • 6 days/week
  • 5AM-Midnight

Do Different Break Rules Apply to Minors?

Yes, they do. It must be a paid rest break, free from duties.

For minors under 16 years old, breaks must not be scheduled near the beginning of the work shift. They must take a rest break of at least ten minutes for every two hours worked. They cannot work more than two hours without a ten-minute rest break or a thirty-minute meal period.

For 16 and 17 year olds, they can’t be required to work more than 3 hours without a break. Breaks must be scheduled as close to the midpoint of a work period as possible, and they can’t be required to stay on-site. They’re required a meal break of at least 30 minutes if they work more than 5 hours in a day.

Note that minors can’t waive their rest breaks or meal breaks – they must take them.

Does Minimum Wage Apply to Minors?

Minors employed in Washington have a modified minimum wage rule. If they’re under 16 years old, they must be paid at least 85% of the applicable standard minimum wage. If they are 16-17 years old, then normal minimum wage rules apply.

Are there exceptions to these rules?

Yes, there are numerous exceptions that apply in a variety of industries and circumstances. For a full list of exceptions applicable to workers under 14, check out LNI’s website on Hiring Youth Under Age 14.

How Do I Ensure I’m Complying With Minor Labor Laws?

Reviewing the guidelines in this post and comparing them to your company’s current practices and policies is a great start. Because these laws can apply differently in certain situations, we highly recommend that you consult with one of our fabulous attorneys to get legal advice for your business and your specific situation.

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