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Minors Working in Agriculture

California and federal laws regulate the conditions under which minors may be employed and the hours they may work. The employment of minors in some situations is completely banned.

Work Permits

An employer that directly or indirectly employs a minor under 18 years of age (other than a high-school graduate or equivalent) must keep a "Permit to Employ" and a "Work Permit" on file throughout the minor's employment. The Permit to Employ must be obtained before the minor starts work. Minors apply for Work Permits from the minor's school. Minors visiting from another state (or country, if eligible to work in the United States) who wish to work in California must obtain the standard Permit to Employ and Work, and their employers must possess such permit. These permits may be issued by the local school district in which the minor will reside while visiting.

Agricultural Zone of Danger

Minors under 12 may not work or accompany an employed parent into an "agricultural zone of danger," which includes being near moving equipment, unprotected chemicals or water hazards. Minors under 16 may not perform hazardous duties.

Minors employed on a farm owned or operated by their parents or guardians are not subject to minimum wage, overtime, or working-condition requirements. While not needing work permits, they may not work during hours that school is in session.

Child Labor Summary

Exemption for One's Own Children: A minor of any age (even under age 12) may be employed without either a permit or any limitation in agricultural, horticultural (including fruit curing and drying but not canning), viticultural and domestic labor for or under the control of his or her parent or guardian upon or in connection with premises owned or operated by the parent or guardian. This exemption applies only during nonschool hours and even if the minor is under school age.

In a nonagricultural workplace operated by a grower (e.g., a packinghouse where the commodities being handled were produced by that grower and other growers) a minor is exempt from federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) coverage only if the minor's parent or guardian is the exclusive employer; where such an operation is a partnership or corporation, a minor is exempt from FLSA coverage only if the minor's parents or guardians are the sole partners or shareholders. (A minor employed in such a workplace is exempt under California law as long as the conditions stated in the above paragraph exist.)

Minimum Age Standards Generally:

Minors aged 14 through 17: May work in any job except those listed for their respective age bracket under Restricted and Hazardous Occupations, below.

Minors aged 12 and 13: May not work in FLSA-covered nonagricultural jobs (e.g., commercial processing operations). May work, with either written parental consent or on a farm where the minor's parent or person standing in the parent's place is also employed, in any agricultural job except those listed for their age bracket under Restricted and Hazardous Occupations, below.

Permits to Work and to Employ: Required unless minor is a high-school graduate or has a certificate of proficiency. Minor obtains permits from school district where minor resides or attends school. Permits must be available for inspection by state labor-law and local and state school authorities.

Recordkeeping: In addition to regular requirements for maintaining employment records, an employer must keep for 3 years a record of the birthdate of one who was a minor when hired; copy of work permit is acceptable.

Hours of Work:

Exception: High-school graduates and those with a certificate of proficiency may work same hours as adults.

Minors aged 16 and 17: When school is in session, may work 4 hours on school days and 8 hours on nonschool days; with special permission may work 8 hours on school days before nonschool days.

When school is not in session, may work 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week.

Exception: May work 10 hours per day on nonschool days during peak harvest season in an agricultural packing plant to which the Labor Commissioner has issued an exemption.

Minors aged 14 and 15: When school is in session, may work 3 hours per day and 18 hours per week.

When school is not in session, may work 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

Minors aged 12 and 13: May work only in agriculture for 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week on nonschool days only.

Spread of Hours:

Minors aged 16 and 17: May work between 5 a.m. and either 10 p.m. on school days or 12:30 a.m. on nonschool days.

Minors aged 14 and 15: May work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but from June 1 to Labor Day may work until 9 p.m.

Minors aged 12 and 13: May work only in agriculture between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but from June 1 to Labor Day may work until 9 p.m.

Restricted and Hazardous Occupations:

All minors: No minor may be employed in: explosives manufacturing and storing; motor-vehicle driving and outside helping on public roads; mining; logging and sawmilling; power-driven woodworking, metal forming, punching, shearing, hoisting-apparatus, bakery, paper-products, and sawing machine operations; jobs involving exposure to radioactive substances; slaughtering; meat packing, processing and rendering; brick and tile (etc.) manufacturing; wrecking, demolition and ship-breaking; roofing; excavating; certain jobs in gasoline service stations selling or serving alcoholic beverages; or handling pesticides.

Minors aged 12 through 15: No minor under age 16 may be employed in: manufacturing or processing (e.g., cracking nuts, dressing poultry) occupations or workplaces1; public messenger services; transporting persons; warehousing; communications; construction; certain work in retail or food-service businesses; automobile or truck driving; operating a tractor of over 20 PTO, or connecting or disconnecting implements to or from such a tractor; operating or otherwise physically contacting these machines--corn or cotton picker, grain or potato combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, power post-hole digger, power post driver, nonwalking-type rotary tiller, trencher, earthmoving equipment, forklift, or power-driven saw; near a bull, boar or stud horse, or a sow with suckling pigs or cow with newborn calf (with umbilical cord); working on a ladder at a height of over 20 feet, or on any scaffolding; felling, bucking, skidding, loading or unloading timber over 6 inches thick; riding on a tractor; oxygen-deficient or toxic-atmosphere fruit, forage or grain storage facility; certain silos; manure pits; handling explosives or anhydrous ammonia; adjusting, sewing or lacing machinery belts; oiling, wiping or cleaning machinery; near moving machinery2; and certain other hazardous jobs.

1 Exception: May work subject to the restrictions listed above (i.e., performing only non-hazardous tasks) in noncommercial agricultural processing/ packing of only the grower's own commodities (i.e., where the commodities being handled were produced by only the grower/processer/packer employing the minor).

2 The restriction on working near moving machinery means that minors may not work "in harm's way" of any moving machinery; the restricted activities involving moving machinery listed in this section (which are specified in various laws and regulations) should thus be regarded as examples and not as an exhaustive listing of such activities or machinery that minors under age 16 must avoid.

Posting of Notice: Farms employing any parent or guardian with minor children in immediate custody must post a notice, in English and Spanish, stating that minors are not allowed to work on the premises unless legally permitted to do so by duly constituted authorities.

Wages: Generally, minors must be paid wages on same basis as adults. Employers may pay a sub-minimum wage to adult and minor employees who qualify as "learners" as specified under IWC Orders.

Citations and Penalties: Citations may be issued for violations.

A "Class A" citation is issued for violations of Labor Code sections 1292, 1293, 1293.1, 1294, 1294.1, 1308, and 1392, and for others that present an imminent danger to minor employees, or a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm would result therefrom. A civil penalty of at least $5,000 and up to $10,000 is imposed for each Class A violation.

A "Class B" citation is issued for violations of Labor Code sections 1290, 1299, 1308.5 and for others that have a direct or immediate relationship to the health, safety, or security of minor employees. A civil penalty of at least $500 and up to $1,000 is imposed for each Class B violation.

These penalties may be imposed on a landowner who knowingly benefits from child-labor violations, regardless of whether the landowner is the minor's employer.