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For Teens

The Basics about young worker health and safety

This information can also be downloaded in a 4 page factsheet: Are You a Working Teen? , in English or Spanish.

If you work in agriculture, different laws apply. Click Here.

Click on any question below to get the answer.

1 What hazards should I watch out for?
2 What are some of my rights on the job?
3 Is it okay to do any kind of work?
4 Do I need a work permit?
5 What are my safety responsibilities on the job?
6 What if I am being sexually harassed at work?
7 What if I am being discriminated against?
8 What hours can I work?
9 How can I make sure my job is safe?
10 What if I have a problem at work?
11 What if I get hurt on the job?


1 What hazards should I watch out for?

The hazards you face will depend on what kind of work you do. Here are some examples of hazards you may encounter. There are many more.

Janitor/Clean-up

  • Toxic chemicals in cleaning products
  • Blood on discarded needles in the trash

Food Service

  • Slippery floors
  • Hot cooking equipment
  • Sharp objects, such as knives and slicer

Retail/Sales

  • Violent crimes
  • Heavy lifting
  • Repetitive motion from operating checkout scanne

Office/Clerical

  • Harassment
  • Poor computer work station design
  • Sitting for long periods

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2 What are some of my rights on the job?

By law, your employer must provide:

  • A safe and healthful workplace.
  • Training about health and safety, including information on chemicals that could be harmful to your health.
  • Training about what to do in an emergency.
  • Protective clothing and equipment, such as gloves or goggles.
  • Payment for medical care if you get hurt or sick because of your job. You may also be entitled to lost wages. [See question #11 for more information.]
  • At least the minimum wage, $7.50 an hour. In some cases, employers can pay 85% of the minimum wage during your first 160 hours of work if you have no previous experience. For more information call the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement at: 1-888-275-9243.

You also have a right to:

  • Report safety problems to Cal/OSHA, the state agency that enforces workplace health and safety regulations.
  • Work without racial or sexual harassment.
  • Refuse to work if the job is immediately dangerous to your life or health.
  • Join or organize a union.

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3 Is it okay to do any kind of work?

NO! There are child labor laws that protect teens from doing dangerous work.

For example, in California, no worker under 18 may:

  • Drive a motor vehicle on public streets as part of the job
  • Drive a forklift
  • Use powered equipment like a circular saw, box crusher, meat slicer, or bakery machine
  • Work in wrecking, demolition, excavation, or roofing
  • Handle, serve, or sell alcoholic beverages
  • Work where there is exposure to radiation

Also, no one 14 or 15 years old may:

  • Do any baking or cooking on the job (except cooking at a serving counter)
  • Work in dry cleaning or a commercial laundry
  • Do building, construction, or manufacturing work
  • Load or unload a truck, railroad car, or conveyor
  • Work on a ladder or scaffold

Are there other things I can't do?

YES! There are many other restrictions regarding the type of work you can and can't do.

If you are under 14, there are very few jobs you are allowed to have. Jobs you may do include babysitting, house cleaning, newspaper delivery, and some agricultural work. Check with the child labor laws or with your school counselor or job placement coordinator to make sure the job you are doing is allowed.

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4 Do I need a work permit?

YES! If you are under 18 and plan to work, you must get a work permit from your school or school district office (unless you have graduated).

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5 What are my safety responsibilities on the job?
     

To work safely you should:

  • Follow all safety rules and instructions
  • Use safety equipment and protective clothing when needed
  • Keep work areas clean and neat
  • Know what to do in an emergency
  • Report any health and safety hazards to your supervisor
  • Get help if your supervisor won't listen or correct an unsafe condition [See question #10 for more information]

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6 What if I am being sexually harassed at work?

Sexual Harassment is defined by the Fair Employment and Housing Commission as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This means someone is doing something sexual that makes you uncomfortable -- if you don't want it, it's illegal.

Sexual harassment includes:

  • Unwelcome touching or patting
  • Suggestive remarks or other verbal abuse (such as telling sexual stories loud enough that you overhear)
  • Staring or leering
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Offensive work environment (such as calendars with naked pictures)

It is your employer's responsibility to:

  • Stop and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace by co-workers, supervisors, or clients
  • Investigate all employee complaints
  • Provide brochures or literature on sexual harassment

What can I do?

  • Say "NO" clearly
  • Document the harassment
  • Get support from family, friends, and/or co-workers
  • Look for witnesses and other victims
  • File a complaint with your employer -- you cannot legally be punished or fired for filing a complaint -- your job is protected by law
  • If it is not resolved, file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing [see #13 "Sexual Harassment is Forbidden By Law"] at 1-800-884-1684

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7 What if I'm being discriminated against?

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against their workers. Employers also have the responsibility to make sure there is no discrimination in the workplace either by your coworkers or by the clients you serve. California state laws protect workers from being fired, from having job opportunities withheld, or from being otherwise unfairly treated on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Ancestry
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • National origin (having an accent, looking "foreign", being an immigrant)
  • Non-citizenship
  • Disability
  • Age (over 40. This protects older workers only--young people do experience age discrimination but are not protected by federal law)
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Orientation

If you are covered by a union contract, you might have additional protections. Get a copy of your union contract and find out.

If you believe you have experienced employment discrimination you should:

  • Document the harassment or discrimination.
  • Learn about your rights and the law.
  • Get support from family and friends.
  • Talk to your supervisor. You can bring a supportive person with you if you want.
  • Look for witnesses and other victims.
  • File a complaint with your employer--you cannot legally be punished or fired for filing a complaint.
  • If it is not resolved, file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Complaints must be filed within one year from the date of the alleged discrimination.

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8 What hours can I work?

California's child labor laws protect teens from working too long, too late, or too early. This table shows the hours teens may work. (Some school districts may have more restrictive regulations. Also, there are some exceptions for teens in Work Experience Education programs. If you are in a Work Experience or Apprenticeship Program, check with your instructor, or check the child labor laws.)

Work Hours for Teens (not in agriculture)
    Age 14-15 Age 16-17
Work Hours 7 am to 7 pm from Labor Day to June 1st   5 am to 10 pm on school nights
    Not during school hours   5 am to 12:30 am when there is no school the next day
    7 am-9 pm from June 1st to Labor Day    
Maximum Hours When School Is in Session   18 hours a week, but not over:   48 hours a week, but not over:
    3 hours a day on school days   4 hours a day Monday-Thursday
    8 hours a day Saturday-Sunday and holidays   8 hours a day Friday-Sunday and holidays
Maximum Hours When School Is not in Session   40 hours a week   48 hours a week
    8 hours a day   8 hours a day

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9 How can I make sure my job is safe?
     

Most jobs can be safe if employers:

  • Give you hands-on health and safety training
  • Work with you to identify and eliminate hazards
  • Give you protective equipment when needed
  • Follow safety laws and regulations

Most jobs can be safe if workers:

  • Follow safety rules
  • Report hazards

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10 What if I have a problem at work?

Here are some basic steps you could take to help you solve problems at work:

  • Get advice and support from co-workers, family members, teachers, your job training representative, or other responsible adults.
  • Talk to your union representative (if you have one).
  • Find out all you can about the problem. Are any laws being broken? If so, which ones? Think about possible solutions and try to decide how effective they would be.
  • Decide what solution is best and work towards that goal.
  • Approach your supervisor politely. Suggest solutions. Bring someone with you for support if you wish.
  • If your employer won't listen or correct the problem, you can contact one of these California government agencies and file a complaint. The local number can be found in the State Government pages of your phone book.

You have a right to speak up! It is illegal for your employer to fire or punish you for reporting a workplace problem.

 

 

 

 

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11 What if I get hurt on the job?
  • Tell your boss right away. If you are under 18, tell your parents or guardians too.
  • Get emergency medical treatment if needed.
  • Your employer must give you a claim form. Fill it out and return it to your employer to request workers' compensation benefits.

If you get hurt on the job, your employer is required by law to provide workers' compensation benefits. These include:

  • Medical care for your injury, whether or not you miss time from work.
  • Payments if you lose wages for more than 3 days or if you are hospitalized overnight.
  • Other benefits if you become permanently disabled.

Did you know?

  • You can receive benefits:
    • even if you are under 18
    • even if you are a temporary or part-time worker, no matter how long you've had your job
  • You receive benefits no matter who was at fault for your injury.
  • You don't have to be a U.S. citizen to receive workers' compensation benefits.
  • It's illegal for your employer to punish or fire you:
    • for having a job injury; or
    • for requesting benefits when hurt on the job.
  • You can't sue your employer for a job injury (in most cases).
  • You can see your own doctor if you give your employer the doctor's name and address before you are injured.

How can I find out more about worker's compensation?

  • Talk to a supervisor or manager at work. Your employer is required by law to give you information about workers' compensation.
  • Talk to your union rep, if you have one.
  • Contact a state Information & Assistance officer. Call toll-free 1-800-736-7401. For a local office, check the Government Pages at the front of the white pages of your phone book. Look under: State Government Office/Industrial Relations/Workers' Compensation.

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Copyright 2009, Labor Occupational Health Program, UC Berkeley.
This page last modified: April 2009
Photos by: Rebecca Letz