- A proposed bill would allow 14 and 15 year olds in Wisconsin to work as late as 11 p.m..
- Supporters say it could help plug the state’s labor shortage.
- Federal child-labor laws say under-16s must stop work at 9 p.m. or 7 p.m., depending on the time of year.
Wisconsin’s Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would allow 14 and 15-year-olds to work until 11 p.m. on some days – much later than current laws allow.
Supporters of the bill say it could help plug the state’s labor shortage.
Wisconsin currently sticks to federal child-labor laws, which stipulate that people under the age of 16 can only work between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day, and between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for the rest of the year.
The proposed bill would allow this group to instead work from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on days before a school day, and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. when the next day isn’t a school day.
It has now been sent to the Wisconsin Assembly for approval.
The bill would keep in place federal rules limiting teens to three hours of work on a school day, eight hours on non-school days, and six days of work a week.
It wouldn’t cover businesses that have annual revenues of more than $US500,000 ($AU665,248) or workers involved in interstate commerce, who are instead covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In testimony to the state’s Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform in June, Sen. Mary Felzkowski and Rep. Amy Loudenbeck said that the bill would help small businesses during the busy summer months.
“Businesses throughout the state see a massive increase in traffic during the summer tourist season, so much so that it can be difficult to find employees to work odd hours and seasonal times,” they said. As a result, businesses often hire young people, they said.
Felzkowski and Loudenbeck said that the current legislation meant some businesses choose to close early because their young staff can’t work late at night.
Hotel and tourism industry lobbyists are in favor of the bill, but it’s opposed by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, a federation of unions.
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association said in June that it supported extending workers hours for teens to help solve staffing issues. CEO Kristine Hillmer said that restaurants across the state had been boosting wages because of their struggle to find staff, noting that some entry-level dishwashers were starting at $US15 ($AU20) an hour or higher.
But the fact the bill wouldn’t cover companies with large turnovers, or workers who take credit-card payments, was a potential problem that made the bill “very complex from a compliance standpoint,” Hillmer said.
Wisconsin currently has nearly 3 million people in employment, per preliminary August data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics – roughly as many as it did before the pandemic hit. But businesses across the state still say they’re struggling to find enough workers.
The bill was introduced in April, when the US labor shortage wasn’t as bad as it is now. The bill wasn’t specifically aimed at the labor shortage.
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