The minimum legal age to work in Washington State is 14 years old.
If any employer hires a minor under 14, they must first obtain permission from a superior court judge in the county where the minor lives. There are a few exceptions.
Certain agricultural jobs
12-13 year-olds can hand-harvest berries, bulbs, cucumbers, and spinach during weeks that school is not in session. Harvest of any other crops is not allowed, and mechanical harvesting is prohibited. This exemption is strictly defined.
Family farm exemption
Immediate family members of farm owners are exempt from age requirements and child labor laws when working on their family farm.
Minors under 14 who are employed as actors or performers in film, video, audio, or theatrical productions do not need a superior court’s permission. Employers must apply for a theatrical variance (F700-186-000) from L&I if the minor needs to work more than the allowed hours or during school hours.
Minors under 14 who are employed by a national youth soccer organization can work as a certified referee. All hours of work and other child labor restrictions apply.
For full details, see our Sports Teams and Youth Workers Publication (F700-130-909).
State, local, and tribal entities
Washington State law exempts the state, municipalities, school districts, tribal governments, and tribal businesses from state child labor laws, minor work permit, and superior court permission requirements. These employers are still subject to any applicable federal child labor laws.
Casual laborers, newspaper carriers, and volunteers
Youth may be exempt from minimum wage, child labor, minor work permit, and superior court permission requirements if they are:
- Working in casual labor, such as lawn mowing, babysitting, raking leaves, etc.
- Delivering newspapers, or
- Volunteering for non-profit, government, or religious organizations.
All businesses not otherwise exempted above who are hiring minors under 14, must have:
- Superior court approval.
- A completed parent/school authorization or summer authorization form.
- A minor work permit.
- Proof of the minor’s age on file.
How to get superior court permission
You must get permission from a superior court judge in the county where the child lives. Check with the appropriate court regarding its procedures and filing fees. To file with the court, submit the following forms along with any court-required fees:
- Employer’s Petition for Permission to Employ Minors Under 14.
- Court Form Granting Permission for Employment of Minors.
These forms are available in the L&I publication Employing Children Under Age 14 (F700-118-000).
Get approval from L&I
Once you have a signed permission from the court, send a copy of it with a completed Parent/School Authorization Form to:
- TeenSafety@Lni.wa.gov, or
- Employment Standards Program/Youth Employment
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
P.O. Box 44510
Olympia, WA 98504-4510
Get a minor work permit
Before you hire a minor under 14, you must have and post a current minor work permit. See the how to hire a minor page for full details on how to apply.
If your business doesn’t have a minor work permit, get a Minor Work Permit endorsement on your Washington Business License.
If your business already has a minor work permit, you must update it with L&I if this endorsement does not include employees under 14.
Once you have obtained and posted your permit, remember these important requirements:
- Employers must pay workers under the age of 16 at least 85 percent of the state’s minimum wage.
- Employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance on all employees regardless of age.
- The hours of work, meal and rest periods, and prohibited duties listed for youth under the age of 16 apply.
Contact the Youth Employment unit at L&I:
- Toll Free: 1-866-219-7321
- Email: TeenSafety@Lni.wa.gov