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Permit Officer Handbook

Every employer must obtain a work permit for each minor they employ before they allow the minor to do any work. No permit is required for agriculture, domestic service outside of school hours, nor for volunteer work for nonprofit organizations where no employer/employee relationship exists. Also, no work permit is required for work performed for court-ordered restitution or court-ordered community service.

If, for any reason, a permit officer finds it necessary to stop serving as a permit officer, please inform our Madison office so a replacement can be appointed. We request that this handbook be left with the permit supplies for the new officer.

Please contact the Madison office by telephone with any questions at 608.266.6860.


What is the purpose of the employment of minors legislation?

The purpose of the employment of minors legislation is to protect the life, health, safety, and welfare of minors. The goal of modern employment of minors administration is to combine prevention with regulation, rather than to award damages or penalties after injury or violation. Even so, damages and penalties remain necessary tools in effective administration. In protecting the welfare of minors, we aid in their development, which in turn supports society as a whole. Through the regulation of employment of minors, with emphasis on preventive rather than punitive action, we go far in meeting this goal.

What is the basic purpose of a permit system?

Authorities agree that effective employment of minors enforcement requires a good permit system. Permits were first used in Wisconsin only to assist economically-disadvantaged families when children needed to contribute to family income. They permitted children to work when they were younger than the law otherwise allowed.

The first effective permit legislation was passed in 1903, when documentary proof of age was required. Factory inspectors could require such proof for any child whose employment they might question.

In 1917 the permit-granting authority was centralized in the Industrial Commission. This facilitated the establishment of more uniform standards in the granting of permits, and made permit records more accurate. The Commission was given the power to appoint and remove permit officers. Many officers are school officials, but municipal and court officials are also included. As of April 2014, there are 2,115 permit officers assisting the department in the issuance of permits.

The permit system protects both minors and employers in Wisconsin. Children are protected from working in occupations for which they are too young or physically unfit; employers are protected against unwitting violation of the law, as the permit establishes legal proof of age.

It is fortunate that the administration of the employment of minors law is charged to a single administrative department, whose interpretations of the law have uniform, statewide effect. Centralized administration of these laws is important to both employers and minors.

How is the permit like a legal contract?

The permit guards against poor working conditions and employment practices; this protects competent standards.

It ensures minors due process of the law. It prevents exploitation of children, and ensures that the employment is legal.

A definite agreement between the minor and employer is established. The advantage to the employer is that legal employment is ensured, and the employer has clear direction regarding the hours a minor may work, limitations in the types of work that can be performed, and the other responsibilities he/she assumes when hiring a minor.

Employers and parents are both responsible for ensuring that minors under 18 years of age are employed in conformity with the law. Penalties may be imposed for each violation, ranging from $25.00 to $1,000.00 per day for the employer, and from $10.00 to $250.00 for each day for the parent. The department may enforce the specified penalties through civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction, or it may pursue criminal penalties.

The permit helps to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the minor. The permit makes the minor aware of citizenship and responsibility to the employer. It also informs the employer about its responsibility to the employee.

What is the role of volunteer permit officers?

When appointing permit officers to assist in the issuance of permits throughout the State, the Department of Workforce Development is not limited to any particular class of persons. In practice, the department has always tried to secure people already connected in some capacity with public service.

It is to the great credit of these public-spirited citizens - mostly dedicated by vocation - that many of them have served from five to fifteen years with great loyalty and fidelity to the trust and confidence placed in them by the department. Permit officers are members of the department's organization, and as such, the department gives them every possible assistance in their duties.

Their only monetary compensation for this work is a portion of the permit fee (of the $10.00 collected for each permit, they retain $2.50). The fee system was inaugurated in 1943. It should be noted that, in most cases, the officer turns the fee over to its employer, especially when the officer is an employee of a school system or some other governmental unit.

In conjunction with this volunteer system, our labor standards investigators act as liaison officers or consultants. Sometimes this entails visits to the permit offices to train officers or audit the office's records. Permit fees are forwarded to our Madison office on a monthly basis. This helps to ensure that statewide administration of the employment of minors and street trades laws are reasonably uniform in scope, within the constraints of our relatively limited budget.

Why is legal age important?

The age of a child bears on what type of work he or she may lawfully perform. Experience has shown that it is not safe to employ minors based upon their own representations of their age, or even upon the representations of their parents.

Most agree with the proposition that this system is somewhat of a burden on employers, but worldwide experience has shown that this burden is necessary to ensure child safety. Interestingly, nearly all states have similar permit requirements.

How is the employment of minors program complemented by the Workers' Compensation Act?

Primary compensation is normally paid by the insurance company but the extra compensation cannot be insured against, and is required to be paid directly to the Worker's Compensation Division.

How to Issue an Employment of Minors Permit

  1. Become an authorized work permit officer. New permit officers need to sign up online to gain access to the system. This is a two-step process. If the person only completes the first step, they will not get into the system. To request access the person needs to:
    • Create your DWD Login ID
    • Once your online ID has been created go to "Work Permit Officer Application Form" and login with the ID, that was just created, to request access to the Work Permit application. When you complete this, we get an e-mail asking us to Grant or Deny access. Once we grant access, you should be able to sign in and issue work permits immediately.
  2. Once you have access to the Work Permit program you can issue permits.
  3. Obtain and personally inspect evidence of minor's age which consists of one of the following:
    • Wisconsin driver's license or Wisconsin State ID
    • Birth certificate - issued by a registrar of vital statistics or other officer charged with the duty of recording births or a certified record of the birth from the hospital in which the birth occurred.
    • Baptismal certificate - including the minor's name, date of birth, date and place of baptism, name of church, and the signature of the officiating or issuing clergy.
    • Other evidence - If the above evidence is cannot be obtained, any of the following may be used:
      • Government records - showing the age of the minor, including a passport or a certificate of arrival in the United States issued by United Stated immigration officers.
      • Life insurance policy - that is at least one year old and is supported by the age indicated in a school record.
      • School records - preferably from the first school attended, with a parent's, guardian's, or custodian's statement of age, and physician's statement of physical age.
      • Evidence of identity if name changed (if applicable) - a marriage license or other certificate or legal document shall be required in addition to the evidence of age if the minor's current name is different from the name on the evidence of age.
    • Do Not Accept: Draft cards, library cards, out-of-state driver's licenses, or school photo IDs.
  4. Obtain and personally inspect the minor's social security card or proof that the minor has voluntarily opted out of the social security system. You can also accept a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that a replacement card has been ordered and is on its way. You may accept other documentation with the social security number on it, if no card is available. Verify that the minor has applied for a replacement. Call our office if you have questions about this requirement.
  5. Obtain a letter from the employer written on its regular letterhead or other business paper stating the intention of the employer to employ the minor; describing the job duties, hours of work, and the time of day the minor will be working; and signed by the employer or someone duly authorized by the employer.
  6. Obtain a letter from the minor's parent, guardian or court-ordered foster parent consenting to the employment or a countersignature of the parent, guardian, or foster parent on the employer's letter.
  7. Collect payment of the $10 permit fee. Payment of the fee is the responsibility of the employer. If the minor advances the fee, the employer shall reimburse the minor no later than the first paycheck.
  8. Correctly enter the minor's date of birth, address, social security number, employer information, minor's school information, type of work, and all other required information into the online work permit system. Print permit and have minor confirm all information is correct.
  9. Print and sign permit. Remember that both you and the minor must sign the permit; it is not valid unless it is signed by both of you.
  10. Make 4 copies of signed permit. Provide minor with 2 copies of the permit (one for the minor, one for the employer). Send one copy to the minor's school, and retain one copy at your work permit office.
  11. Keep a file of permits issued. Attach written parental consent and employer's letter to your copy of the permit. We suggest that such files, including age certificates, be retained until the minor reaches 19 years of age. If you file your permits by the minor's date of birth and then by the minor's last name, at the end of each year, you will only have to destroy the oldest file with dates of birth over 19.
    • NOTE: Files should NOT include copies of the minor's social security card or other government documents which would put the minor at risk of identity theft or fraud. Rest assured that the work permits themselves print only the last 4 digits of the social security number.
  12. Submit payment to the Department. The department fixes a fee of $10.00 for the issuing of each employment of minors permit or certificate of age and authorizes the retention of $2.50 of the fee by the permit office as compensation for services. The permit office shall forward $7.50 of the fee to the department at the end of each month to cover the cost of administration, materials and supervision.

    Please consider making your monthly payment of work permit fees to the department using the department's e-payment system. Using this system you can submit a payment from your bank account to the department without incurring the usual costs involved in writing checks. Once you enter this website there are instructions to guide first time users.
  13. Refer all problems or questions on interpretation to the Equal Rights Division at (608) 266-6860.

How (and When) to Issue a Street Trades Permit

"Street trade" means "the selling, offering for sale, soliciting for, collecting for, displaying or distributing any articles, goods, merchandise, commercial service, posters, circular, newspapers or magazines, or the blacking of boots, on any street or other public place or from house to house."

To issue a street permit, the permit officer follows the exact same process for issuing a work permit (see How to Issue an Employment of Minors Permit). You'll simply select "Issue Street Trade Permit" from the online work permit system. Additionally you'll need to provide the minor with an ID card (LS-24, see below) that the minor must carry on his/her person when engaged in street trades.

LS-24: Sample of Street Trades Permit

These cards can be requested from our Department. To request, please email us.

How (and When) to Issue an Age Certificate

To limit liability, occasionally employers wish to have conclusive evidence of an adult's age before employing him or her. Age certificates provide that proof. They are not work permits but are conclusive evidence of the age of any adult in any proceeding under any of the labor laws and Worker's Compensation Act of Wisconsin as to any act or thing occurring subsequent to the date of issuance.

Age certificates are for persons between the ages of 16 and 21. Although age certificates are not work permits, work permit officers are authorized to issue them.

The process for issuing an age certificate is the same as issuing a work permit (see How to Issue an Employment of Minors Permit). You'll simply select "Issue an Age Certificate" from the online work permit system. The applicant should be instructed to present the certificate of age to their employer and request its return on termination of employment so that they may present it to their next employer.

When and How to Refuse, Recall, Revoke or Suspend a Work Permit

Refusal of Permit

The permit officer must refuse to issue a permit for prohibited or similar employments as listed in Wis. Admin. Code DWD 270.12 and DWD 270.13.

Permit officers MAY NOT issue permits if the minor is just a few weeks short of the legal age to do the work in question. The permit cannot be issued until the minor reaches that age.

The issuing officer may also refuse to issue a permit to a minor who seems physically unable to do the work, or when the best interest of the minor would be served by such refusal.

Recalling a Permit

The permit officer may ask an employer to return a permit which was found to be issued in error. When it is felt that the physical or moral welfare of the minor will be served by revocation of the permit, the permit officer should first ask the employer for the permit's return, then ask the parent to terminate the minor's employment. If necessary, ask our Madison office to investigate so the department can revoke the permit.

NOTE: You may want to remind employers that you are looking out for their best interest when you refuse to issue a permit.

Revoking a Permit

The department may revoke any permit whenever the permit has been improperly or illegally issued, or when the physical or moral welfare, or the best interests of the minor would be served by revocation. The department shall revoke or suspend a employment of minors permit when ordered to do so by a Judge. This occurs most often in cases of truancy.

The department may revoke any permit if requested in writing by the school principal, the minor's parent or guardian who has legal custody, or the court-ordered foster parent while the minor is under their care and supervision. The requesting party must demonstrate some attempt has taken place to resolve the work problem between the minor, school, parent or guardian, and employer before the request for revocation is made to the department. If the issue involves truancy or grades, a copy of school records is helpful.

The permit officers in local offices - including school districts - do NOT have the authority to revoke work permits.

Suspending a Permit

The department may suspend any permit whenever the permit has been improperly or illegally issued, or the physical or moral welfare, or the best interests of the minor would be served by the suspension.

The requirements for obtaining a suspension are the same as for obtaining a revocation. A suspension is a temporary hold on the permit. For example, a high school principal can ask that a permit be suspended for the remainder of a school year, April-May for example, because of poor grades since the child started the job.

Other responsibilities of Local Work Permit Offices

Work Permit Online Payment System

This site provides work permit offices with a secure, convenient method to pay the Department of Workforce Development the state's share of the work permit fees collected by permit offices. The service is free and available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Step-by-step Instructions for First Time Users

In order to use this payment method you will need the following information:

If you have questions not addressed in the instructions above, please call (608) 266-6860.

Guidelines to Employment of Minors Regulations

Circumstances When Minors Under 14 Can Work

Children can work as young as age 12 in the following jobs:

  1. Caddy on a golf course, if using caddy carts.
  2. Work in the school lunch program of the school that they attend.
  3. Restitution Program - Minors 12-13 may be ordered by a court to make up to $250 in restitution. The child's work hours, and time of day, shall be as that of a 12-13 year-old. Prohibited types of work and places of employment would still apply as they would to 14 and 15 year olds. The 12-13 year-old minor cannot continue to work after having fulfilled the restitution order.
  4. Minors 12 and 13 years of age may be employed under direct adult supervision as officials for athletic events sponsored by private, nonprofit organizations in which the minor would be eligible to participate, or in which the participants are the same age as the minor, or younger than the minor. This provision allows these 12 and 13 year old minors to work as officials only if provisions of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (29 USC 201 to 219) would not prohibit that employment. The FLSA would prohibit such employment in business or schools over which it would exercise jurisdiction.
  5. Minors 12 years of age or older may be employed by a nonprofit organization in and around the home of an elderly person or a person with a disability to perform snow shoveling, lawn mowing, leaf raking, or other similar work usual to the home of the elderly person or person with a disability, if all of the following apply:
    1. The work is not in connection with or a part of the business, trade, or profession of that person;
    2. The type of employment is not specifically prohibited;
    3. The minor is paid the applicable minimum wage for the work;
    4. The minor's parent or guardian provides the nonprofit organization with his or her written consent for the minor to perform the work.
  6. Minors 12 and 13 years of age may be employed as sideline officials for high school football games.
  7. Minors 11 to 13 years of age may be employed as ball monitors at high school football games and practices.
  8. Minors of any age are permitted to work at any gainful occupation under the direct supervision of their parent or guardian in connection with the parent's or guardian's business, trade, or profession, provided the employment or place of employment is not deemed hazardous.

Circumstances When No Work Permit is Required

  1. Agricultural work.
  2. Domestic employment - Work in or around a private home that is not a business, such as babysitting, yard work.
  3. Volunteer work for a non-profit agency, such as a volunteer at a non-profit hospital. Minors cannot perform prohibited work while volunteering.
  4. State of Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Program, although the program recommends that a permit be obtained.
  5. Court-ordered restitution or court-ordered community service employment.
  6. Employed under the direct supervision of their parent or guardian in connection with the parent's or guardian's business, trade, or profession.

Hours and Times of Day Minors May Work in Wisconsin

State and federal laws do not limit the hours that minors 16 years of age or over may work, except that they may not be employed or permitted to work during hours of required school attendance under Wis. Stat. § 118.15.

State and federal laws also permit minors under 16 to work up to seven days per week in the delivery of newspapers and agriculture. In most other types of labor, minors under 16 may only work six days a week.

Most employers must obtain work permits for minors before permitting them to work. For further information, see The Wisconsin Employment of Minors Guide (formerly named DWD-ERD-4758)

Maximum Hours of Work for 14 & 15 year old minors After Labor Day through May 31 June 1 through Labor Day
Daily Hours
-- Non-School Days 8 hours 8 hours
-- School Days 3 hours 3 hours
Weekly Hours
-- Non-School Weeks 40 hours 40 hours
-- School Weeks 18 hours 18 hours
Permitted Time of Day 7 am - 7 pm 7 am - 9 pm

Employers subject to both federal and state laws must comply with the more stringent section of the two laws.

State employment of minors laws prohibit work during times that minors are required to be in school, except for students participating in work experience and career exploration programs operated by the school.

Minors under 16 years of age are limited to the maximum hours and time of day restrictions even though they may work for more than one employer during the same day or week.

Minors under 14 years of age are allowed to work in certain occupations (e.g., street trades, agriculture, and work in school lunch programs. See the Wisconsin Employment of Minors Guide (formerly named ERD-4758-P), for more detail). These minors are subject to the same hourly and time of day restrictions as minors who are 14 or 15 years of age.

Minors under 18 years of age may not work more than 6 consecutive hours without having a 30-minute, duty free meal period.

Minors 16 & 17 years of age who are employed after 11:00 pm must have 8 hours of rest between the end of one shift and the start of the next shift.

Minimum Wage for minors is $7.25 per hour. Employers may pay an "Opportunity Wage" of $5.90 per hour for the first 90 days of employment. On the 91st day, the wage must increase to $7.25 per hour.

For further information about the federal employment of minors laws call (608) 441-5221, or write to U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour, 740 Regent Street, Suite 102, Madison, WI 53715.

For further information about the state employment of minors laws, call the Equal Rights Division in Madison (608) 266-6860 or Milwaukee (414) 227-4384

For more information