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The employment of minors in the restaurant industry

San Diego is home to countless award-winning and famous restaurants. In fact, many successful professionals got their start working in restaurants, and many others still make their livings in the industry. One issue that often comes up in employment law is the lawful employment of minors in the restaurant industry. An experienced employment law firm can help with issues such as employee classification, understanding wage laws, denied overtime and more.

According to California's labor code, a minor is someone under the age of 18 who is required by law to attend school. Those under 18 who are not residents of the state of California are considered minors in California, even if they are not required by attend school in their resident state.

One of the most fundamental elements of the lawful employment of minors in restaurants is the work permit. Basically, all minors, with few exceptions, are required to have a valid work permit in order to be legally employed in California. This applies to minors working in their parents' restaurants and to all minors regardless of whether or not school is in session. In other words, an employer cannot bypass the work permit requirement just because it is summertime and school is out. Likewise, minor employees must have work permits even if working for their own parents or relatives, with some exceptions.

According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must also have a Certificate of Age for their employed minors. A valid work permit satisfies this requirement. One key exception to the work permit requirement is that minors who have already graduated high school, or who have achieved a certificate of equivalency, are not required by have a work permit in order to be employed.

In general, minors are entitled to earn the same minimum wage as non-minors. This also applies to overtime as well. However, under some circumstances a minor may earn what is known as a "learner's wage" of 85 percent of the prevailing minimum wage. This is usually if a minor has no previous experience or no applicable skills in the occupation. A minor who believes he or she may have been denied minimum wage may want to speak with a wage laws attorney regarding pay or even child labor law violations.

Source: California Restaurant Association, "Employment of Minors," accessed Jan. 29, 2017