California has the most extensive matrix of laws regarding children working in the entertainment industry in the world. Applicable laws can be found scattered through the Family Code, Probate Code, Education Code and Labor Code. In addition, California is a union state, so SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s labor union, also has jurisdiction over most projects.
A quick summary of requirements in California:
- work permit for each child required, requires ID, school clearance and sexual harassment prevention training (for actors 14 and older).
- work permits good for 6 months
- parent/guardian MUST be within sight and sound of their child at all times
- California state licensed studio teacher/welfare worker required on set 24/7, even if it is not a school day
- work hours limited by age
- overtime illegal
- 3 hours per day required of schooling on set on school days
- 100% of the child’s earnings belong to the child (as opposed to the parents or household)
- 15% mandatory blocked Coogan trust account withholding. Background actors are exempt from this
- Sexual Harassment Prevention Training is required for actors 14 and up in order to get a work permit
- those crew members who supervise kids (not just the studio teacher) are now mandated reporters of child abuse (AB1963, passed in 2020)
The best summary of the basic California entertainment child labor law exists in a publication by the Studio Teachers Union, called the Blue Book. It is searchable by subject. You may also search here at Bizparentz for more information on specific portions of the law. Just use the SEARCH function (magnifying glass icon) on the upper right corner of any page.
But Wait, There’s More…
In addition to the basic labor laws, California has additional laws that protect child actors in specific situations such as talent scams and sexual predators. California values the entertainment industry and the artists who drive the economy. These laws are highlighted below:
SB1687 – Enacted in CA January 1, 2010
Advance Fee Talent Law, Updated as Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act
Previous Advance Fee Talent Law regulated “Services” who charge up-front fees (any advance fee prior to the artist obtaining actual employment) by:
- prohibiting them from making false or misleading advertisements,
- referring the artist to anyone who charges a fee in which the “service” has a financial interest
- accepting any compensation for referring an artist to a person that charges a fee
- requires Advance Fee Services to post a $10,000 surety bond
- requires the disclosure of contractual agreements,
- requires a right to refund of any advance fee paid, and to cancel any contract for advance fee talent services.
In short, any company that wants to charge you an upfront fee (for something like registration, modeling classes, or a talent competition), must post a $50,000 bond, have certain refund policies, and they must follow rules about things like their success stories, their “scouts” etc. They cannot promise you employment and they cannot “sell” you an audition for an agent, casting director, or a job. Businesses also must have disclaimer language on their website.
Businesses may provide education, but they can’t cross the line of selling you an audition (aka a job interview).
This law prohibits a person, except a person licensed as a talent agent and other specified persons, from representing or providing specified services to artists who are minors, under 18 years of age, unless he or she submits to the Labor Commissioner an application for a Child Performer Services Permit and receives that permit.
The law requires the Labor Commissioner to maintain a list of all persons holding a valid Child Performer Services Permit issued under the above-described provisions and make this list publicly available on its Internet Web site.
To “represent or provide specified services to” means to provide, offer to provide, or advertise or represent as providing, for a fee one or more of the following services:
Photography for use as an artist, including, but not limited to, still photography, digital photography, and video and film services.
Managing or directing the development or advancement of the artist’s career as an artist.
Career counseling, career consulting, vocational guidance, aptitude testing, evaluation, or planning, in each case relating to the preparation of the artist for employment as an artist.
Public relations services or publicity, or both, including arranging personal appearances, developing and distributing press packets, managing fan mail, designing and maintaining Internet Web sites, and consulting on media relations.
Instruction, evaluation, lessons, coaching, seminars, workshops, or similar training as an artist, including, but not limited to, acting, singing, dance, voice, or similar instruction services.
A camp for artists, which includes, but is not limited to, a day camp or overnight camp in which any portion of the camp includes any services described in subparagraphs (A) to (E), inclusive
This suite of laws was passed primarly in response to the #MeToo movement. It requires children ages 14 and up to complete a free, two hour sexual harassment training in order to receive an Entertainment Work Permit. In addition, AB1963 added most of our employers to the list of people who are mandated reporters of child abuse. Studio Teachers in California were always mandated reporters, but now any business that employs a minor must have a human resource employee that is a mandated report, ensuring that children will have someone who will file a report, even if the studio teacher is not present.
For more on these laws and their history, please see the Bizparentz Sexual Harassment page here.
AB533 – Enacted January 1, 2014 – Amendment to SB210
Coogan Law Update
This law amended the prior requirements of employers relating to Coogan Account withholding.
Section 6752 (b) (1) adds in the following: “except an employer of a minor for services as an extra, background performer, or in a similar capacity, as described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 6750.”
This amendment will eliminate the withholding and depositing task by the employer for those earnings that are relatively small, indicitive of background or extra work. At the time of the legislation drafting, the Actors Fund had over 36,000 individual deposits, and over 31,000 of them were for amounts less than $99.00. These deposits are earnings withheld from minors by their employer that were NOT deposited, but were instead sent to the Actors Fund to be held in trust. This factual data combined with the financial institutions higher deposit requirements and implementation of fees showed that to continue to include the background workers was more than likely a harmful rather than helpful event.
Note, however, that there is nothing that indicates a parent couldn’t, or shouldn’t implement this withholding on their own. This exemption does not change the legal status in California that ALL earnings of a minor in the Entertainment Industry belong to the minor, not the family. Please continue to make your financial decisions wisely.