Federal child labor laws set the minimum age to work at 14, with some exceptions, and California's minimum age to work also is 14 in most cases. In states where there is a conflict between federal and state laws, the more restrictive law applies.
California requires children younger than 18 to have a permit to work for any job. Minors often get a state education department work permit from their schools once they've been offered jobs. The permits officially are called a "Statement of Intent to Employ Minor and Request for Work Permit."
A minor's parent or legal guardian must sign the form, which is to be filled out by the minor and the potential employer. Once the signed form is returned to the school, the permit to employ and work is issued by school officials. Employers must have a permit to employ from the California Division of Labor Standards.
Minor work permits issued during a school year expire five days after the start of the next school year and have to be renewed even if working for the same employer. For example, if a high school sophomore gets a job in April and starts her junior year grade on Sept. 5, the work permit received in April would expires on September 10 unless she renews it.
Rules for Entertainment Industry
Since the entertainment industry is a large employer in the state, California has specific regulations regarding minors working in that sector. These apply to children appearing on television shows or movies, making recordings, or working as a model for advertising or other media.
Even if the work a child actor or model is performing is noncommercial in nature, a work permit still is required.
Children from 15 days to 18 years of age working in the entertainment industry must have an Entertainment Work Permit. These are good for six months and are issued by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. There's also a temporary Entertainment Work Permit available for minors in California, good for 10 days.
There is no fee for six-month permits, but 10-day permits require a fee of $50, as of 2019. Temporary permits are available only to children 16 and younger who have not previously applied for or been issued an Entertainment Work Permit.
Getting an Entertainment Work Permit
Children younger than one-month-old need a letter from a pediatrician certifying that they are healthy enough for the employment activity, and all children of kindergarten age or younger also need documentation, which can include a passport, birth certificate, or baptismal certificate.
Whether applying for a permit for the first time or renewing a permit, applicants have a choice between using the state's online system or filling out a paper document.
School-age children in grades 1 through 12 need a letter from school officials certifying attendance in addition to health and school records is also required.