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Youth Referee Employment Regulations

Many Member Associations (and their Clubs) of the Washington State Youth Soccer Association engage young people to serve as referees for games in their soccer association or club. This fact sheet describes the rules chapters must follow to comply with Washington State’s industrial insurance laws when they engage young people as referees.

Industrial Insurance - Worker's Compensation

Washington’s Industrial Insurance program, managed by the Department of Labor and Industries (DLI), is a system of mandatory insurance that provides employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their employment with medical insurance, salary continuation payments, vocational rehabilitation services and compensation payments for disability. All employers are required to participate in the industrial insurance or "worker’s compensation" system.

Employers who participate in the state insurance program pay a tax based on the number of hours worked by their employees, the risk of injury or illness inherent in the jobs being performed and the employer’s "claims experience" rating.

Youth Age 14 and Older

Youths aged 14 years old and older who are engaged to be referees are considered to be "employees" and must receive an hourly wage according to their age. These youths will be covered under DLI regulations, including coverage under industrial insurance. This means that the employer must report the hours worked by youth referees on their quarterly report to DLI and pay the appropriate tax. Either local chapters or referee organizations can be the employer of the referees.

DLI regulations also include other wage, hour and child labor rules. Employers of youth referees, whether they are local chapters or referee organizations must comply with these rules as well. For example, child labor rules require that the employers have a minor work permit endorsement as part of their business license for each business location. The basic steps for hiring a teen can be found at DLI’s Teen Worker web page, This web page also provides information and links regarding the hours of work, prohibited duties and teen safety resources.

Youth Under the Age 14

The DLI considers referees under the age of 14 as "volunteers" of your chapter or association. As volunteers, these youths may be paid a stipend for the games that they referee. These youths should referee games that involve very young children and have an adult who is responsible for the game activities. The hours and responsibilities of these referees are limited.

Since these youths will be considered volunteers under Department of Labor and Industries rules, they will be covered under industrial insurance for medical benefits for volunteers.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Patrick Shanahan of the Department of Labor and Industries at 360-902-4575 or email him at
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