Youth Employment

Nicki Everett
June 22, 2022

As the school year is coming to a close, more youth under the age of 18 will be looking for a summer job or volunteer opportunity. Working and volunteering provide valuable experience for young people, and young people provide important perspectives and skills to organizations. In order to provide a safe, meaningful work environment there are some important considerations to make before recruiting someone under the age of 18 as an employee or volunteer.

  • Does your organization have appropriate work for someone under the age of 18 to make a meaningful contribution?
  • Can you provide adequate supervision and mentorship for a young person to thrive?
  • Are you ready to meet the legal requirements to work with a minor?

If you do choose to move forward with youth employment, Washington has laws to protect workers under the age of 18. Businesses who violate work restrictions for minors may be subject to fines and civil penalties. Before hiring a minor in Washington, a business must get a work permit endorsement on their business license, have a proof of age document, and have a completed and signed parent/school authorization form (if school is in session) or summer authorization form. If a minor continues employment into the school year, a new authorization form is required by September 30 or whenever the work schedule changes.

Provisions under Washington law for minors include:

  • Wages: Youth ages 16-17 years old must be paid at least the current minimum wage, workers under 16 must be paid 85% of minimum wage.
  • Meal and rest break requirements: There are more frequent meal and rest break requirements for 16-17 year-olds and youth under 16. These breaks cannot be waived.
  • Hours of work limitations:
    • During the school year, 14-15 year-olds cannot work more than 3 hours per day, 6 days a week, for a total of no more than 16 hours per week. Their working hours must be between 7 a.m.-7 p.m. 16-17 year-olds cannot work more than 4 hours per day, 6 days a week, for a total of no more than 20 hours per week. Their working hours must be between 7 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. and midnight on weekends.
    • During the summer, minors can work up to 8 hours per day. 14-15 year-olds cannot work more than 6 days a week, for a total of no more than 40 hours per week. 16-17 years-old cannot work more than 6 days a week, for a total of 48 hours per week. Also, start and stop times are different during non-school weeks.
  • Prohibited job duties: Some general restrictions include working higher than 10 ft off the ground, most driving on public roads to make deliveries, and operating heavy machinery. Check out the full list of prohibited non-agricultural duties (WAC 296-125-030) and prohibited agricultural duties (WAC 296-131-125). There are additional non-agricultural restrictions for 14-15 year-olds found in the WAC 296-125-033.

Maybe you do not have a paid position where it would be appropriate to hire someone under the age of 18, but you would like to offer young people the chance to get involved in your organization through volunteering. You should check with your insurance provider to ensure that youth volunteers will be covered under your policy. Because minors under 18 are generally not able to legally provide consent, you will also want to make sure that a parent or guardian signs a release of liability form and gives consent to run a background check, if required by your organization. If you do not have individual volunteer opportunities that would work well, you may want to consider family or group volunteering opportunities. This resource from 501 Commons reviews some best practices for family volunteering.

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