As the summer job period nears, Labor and Industries advises young Washington workers to understand their rights – FOX 28 Spokane

A vibrant illustration of young, diverse workers gathered around a large, open book titled 'Your Rights at Work,' with the Washington state capitol building in the background, and a warm summer sun sh

Understanding Workers’ Rights: A Guide for Young Washingtonians Seeking Summer Jobs

As summer approaches, many young people in Washington State are beginning to look for seasonal employment opportunities. These jobs provide not only a source of income but also valuable work experience. However, it is essential that young workers are aware of their rights in the workplace. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) plays a crucial role in protecting these rights and ensuring that the work environment is safe, fair, and free from exploitation.

Key Rights under Washington State Law

Washington State maintains specific laws aimed at protecting workers, including minors. It is important for young workers and their guardians to understand these rights thoroughly:

  • Minimum Wage: As of the latest updates, the minimum wage in Washington State is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage. All workers, including teenagers, are entitled to this rate unless specific exemptions apply.
  • Working Hours: For workers under 18, there are strict regulations on how many hours they can work during school days and non-school days, including limits on late-night work. This ensures that employment does not interfere with their education and health.
  • Safety and Health Regulations: Young workers are often not assigned to high-risk jobs, but it is crucial that they receive proper training and equipment to perform their tasks safely, especially in industries like construction or manufacturing.
  • Right to a Discrimination-Free Workplace: All workers have the right to a workspace free from discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, and other protected characteristics. This includes freedom from sexual harassment and the right to reasonable accommodations.

Resources Available Through L&I

Washington’s L&I offers various resources to help young workers know and assert their rights:

  • Educational Materials: L&I provides brochures, flyers, and online resources detailing young workers’ rights and safety protocols specific to different industries.
  • Workshops and Training: These sessions are presented periodically to educate both workers and employers about the importance of upholding labor standards and ensuring workplace safety.
  • Complaint Process: L&I has a straightforward process for reporting violations, such as unpaid wages, unsafe working conditions, or discrimination. Complaints can be filed anonymously to protect the worker’s identity from employers.

Preparing for the Workforce

As young individuals prepare to enter the workforce, they should take the following steps to safeguard their rights:

  • Educate Themselves: Understanding the basic principles of labor law in Washington can empower young workers and help them recognize when their rights are being infringed.
  • Avoid Hazardous Jobs: It’s important for young workers to know which jobs are legally prohibited for minors and adhere to these rules for their safety.
  • Document Everything: Keeping detailed records of hours worked, wages received, and any job-related incidents can be crucial in a dispute or complaint.

Support from the Community and Schools

Community organizations and schools can also play an essential role in supporting young workers. They can partner with L&I to provide informational sessions and materials that prepare students for their summer jobs. Education about workplace rights can be incorporated into school curriculums or offered as part of career readiness programs.


The summer job season is an exciting time for young workers in Washington State, presenting opportunities for earning and learning. By understanding and asserting their legal rights, young workers can protect themselves from unfair practices and unsafe working conditions, contributing positively to their early work experiences.

The commitment of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries to uphold these rights reinforces the state’s dedication to fostering a fair, safe, and equitable working environment for all its residents.

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