Ohio lawmakers propose changes to child labor laws

Two measures that are making their way through the Ohio House could extend the evening hours teenagers aged 14-15 could work during the school year if federal law surrounding child labor changes.

Senate Bill 30 — passed in March in the Ohio Senate — would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work until 9 p.m. year-round in Ohio with their parents’ and school administrators’ consent. Currently, teenagers in this age group can only work until 7 p.m. during the school year. Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 would urge Congress to make changes to child labor laws that mirror what is proposed in SB 30.

Area business leaders say the measures could help them with evening staffing if passed.

Dan Young, CEO of Young’s Jersey Dairy, said SB 30 does not extend the maximum number of hours 14- and 15-year-olds can work: that’s still capped at three hours per day and a total of 18 hours weekly during the school year.

His business employs more than 300 workers, with 40% of that workforce consisting of people below age 18.

Young said if passed, this bill could help his younger employees pick up hours during the week and help his business with scheduling students’ work hours. He said he liked that the bill requires guardian permission of a student to work later hours.

Education and child advocacy groups say the bill could overburden minors.

Children’s Defense Fund senior policy associate Alison Paxson provided opponent testimony against SB 30 before a House committee last month. She called the bill a “slippery slope for child labor protections in Ohio” and “a band-aid solution to workforce shortages.”

Paxson said that if passed, the bill would infringe “on the precious time children have to be just that… children.”

But Chloe Castonguay, a graduate of Xenia High School, said the bill could open opportunities for young teens.

She has been working at Young’s since she was 15 years old. She said during her time there, she developed the skills of time management, teamwork and more. She balanced her work at the ice cream shop with her schoolwork and involvement with sports like soccer and tennis.

“It really taught me how to be independent,” she said. “You start making money and you learn responsibility and problem-solving. All ‘real world’ things you need to know.”

She said Young’s was flexible with her student schedule as a high school student, and she encouraged every teenager to get a job if they can.

“At any age, it will help you in the long run,” she said.

The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster.

“This bill will expand the ability of our younger generations who want to work and earn a paycheck to do so with the permission of their parents or guardians,” said Schaffer in a statement earlier this year.

The bill does not change or relax punishments for employers who violate child labor laws.

The bill was voted out of the House Commerce and Labor Committee last week on a party line vote with eight Republicans supporting it and five Democrats opposing it.

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