News Release

Start of school means limits on work hours for teens; Employers must get permission from parents, schools

September 24, 2021

TUMWATER – The start of school signals limits on work hours for teenagers in Washington state. For employers, it means a Sept. 30 deadline to obtain permission from parents and schools for teens to work during the school year.

“When school’s in session, a student’s priority should be school, whether they’re in a classroom, learning online, or homeschooled,” said Josie Bryan, child labor supervisor with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. “That’s something important for businesses to support by working with parents and schools and actively managing the hours teen work.”

Employers must obtain and keep on file a completed Parent/School Authorization form for each teen. State law requires a new form by Sept. 30 annually.

The form must include when work starts and ends, job duties, and if the teen has a second job. The employer, teen, parent, and school authority must each sign it — and electronic signatures are allowed.

For teens employed in retail and other non-agricultural jobs, here are the allowable work hours during the school year:

  • 14- and 15-year-olds: Three hours/day, six days a week, between 7 a.m.-7 p.m. for no more than 16 hours total;
  • 16- and 17-year-olds: Four hours/day, six days a week, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. (midnight Friday-Saturday nights), for no more than 20 hours total.

In addition to the authorization form, employers must also keep on hand a copy of the teen worker’s proof of age. This can include a copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license, or a notarized statement from a parent or guardian. Employers must adhere to COVID-19 requirements and avoid prohibited duties for teens.


Teens cannot work at all during school hours without a variance. There are two:

  1. Special Variance. Parents and school authorities can grant a variance that extends hours teens in public and private schools can work. The Special Variance allows teens 16-17 years of age to work six hours a day, up to 28 hours in a week. Employers can fill out a Special Variance, located on the Parent/School Authorization form.
  2. Minor Work Variance. An employer may also apply for a variance directly with L&I. This Minor Work Variance is for 16- and 17-year-olds who are homeschooled, not enrolled in school, or need to work more hours than allowed under a special variance.

 A list of work hours for teens in agricultural jobs during weeks when school is in session is available at L&I's teen worker webpage. For more information, contact the L&I Teen Safety Program (, 1-800-219-7321.

For media information:

Matthew Erlich, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6508

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