What's the Minimum Legal Working Age in Washington?

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If you're a Washingtonian thinking about getting your first job, you need to find out what the minimum legal working age in your state is. Are you able to work there? If so, you're on the road to independence. Working can help you accomplish your personal goals, be they taking a trip, buying a car, saving for college or simply having enough money for nights on the town.

How Old Should You Be to Work in Washington?

Both federal child labor laws and Washington state law agree that the minimum age to work is 14 (with some exceptions). But child labor laws in each state determine the minimum age to work and which permits are needed. When federal and state laws don't agree on the minimum age, the more stringent law will apply.

Children younger than 14 may work in certain circumstances, though. They may be able to work on a family farm or in a family business, complete household chores for pay, deliver newspapers, do yard work or work as entertainers.  

Before youth begin their age-appropriate work, they and their guardians should review the rules and restrictions surrounding child labor laws.

Washington state law requires child employment certificates for youth under age 18, which they may obtain from the Labor Department. Age certificates are not required by state law. 

What Hours Can Teens Work?

Although teens ages 14-15 can work in a variety of jobs, including in retail, hospitals, and corporations, the hours they work are limited. Youth this age can't work more than three hours on a school day, 16 hours in a school week, eight hours on a non-school day or 40 hours during a non-school week. 

Additionally, these teens must work hours that fall between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when working hours extend to 9 p.m.) Teens ages 16-17 may work up to four hours on school days, eight hours Friday through Sunday and 20 hours during school weeks.

Neither age group may work more than six days in a row whether or not school is in session. When school is out, older teens may work up to 48 hours between the hours of 5 a.m. to midnight (during the school year they work until 10 p.m. or midnight on weekends). Younger teens may work up to 40 hours when school is out and up until 9 p.m. at night during summers.  

Keeping Your Teen Safe

That said, parents should exercise caution. Just because a teen can work early in the day or late at night, doesn't mean she should. Parents should consider if the child will be the only worker there late at night or early in the morning, or if her work is in an isolated or busy area.

Are their security guards in or outside of the youth's workplace? Where will she park? Parking garages can be dangerous. If your teen doesn't have a car, you should be even more concerned about her being outdoors in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. Teens are more vulnerable than adult workers, and their guardians should keep this in mind.

Teens of all ages may not work in hazardous occupations that might cause serious bodily harm, death or adverse health effects, so many jobs in construction and factories are off limits to youth. Young workers aren't allowed to work with power-driven tools.

For more information on the minimum age to work in Washington and how to obtain employment certificates visit the Washington State Labor Website.