Current state law mirrors the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, allowing minors under the age of 16 to work between the hours of 7:00 am and 9:00 pm during the summer, and 7:00 am to 7:00 pm the remainder of the year.
The proposed legislation would change the state law. Minors would be allowed to work between the hours of 6:00 am and 9:30 pm on school nights, and between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm on non-school nights.
The change would apply only to businesses not already covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It would not apply to companies with greater than $500,000 in sales and whose employees engage in interstate commerce.
That discrepancy is one reason that the Wisconsin Restaurant Association is not in full support of the bill.
Susan Quam is the Executive Vice President of the lobbying group.
Quam said, “What our concerns are with this particular bill; while we support the concept of allowing certain teens to work a little bit later we feel that, especially with the way the bill was written and the hours that it is adding it’s just going to create some compliance problems for a lot of restaurants because they will either outright not qualify as a business to allow certain young people to work late or they will have too much difficulty trying to have that teen only do that type of work that makes them qualify as a state only employee.”
While the group will not oppose passage of the bill, Quam expressed concern regarding the implementation.
“So we do still have our concerns about educating the entire industry and all of the small businesses out there about what this is and isn’t. Because of the way it has been reported, a lot of operators only hear the part about, ‘gee my 14 and 15 year olds can stay later.’ They don’t hear about the fact that only if you qualify as a state only employer,” Quam stated.
The bill passed the Senate quickly and with little debate last Wednesday.
Senator Robert Wirch, a Democrat from Somers, says he opposes the bill. He pointed out before the bill was passed in the senate that the Wisconsin AFL-CIO also opposes the bill.
Wirch said, “Kids should be doing their homework; being in school instead of working more hours. I oppose this bill and I think it sends us in the wrong direction.”
Following the bill’s passage in the state senate, the bill now heads to the state assembly.
Representative Francesca Hong, a Democrat representing Madison, serves on the assembly committee that heard the bill last month. She says the bill does nothing to address the real issues behind any labor shortage.
In a statement to WORT, Hong writes: “We need tools to give our employers like paid leave, healthcare subsidies, and increasing purchasing power for everyone so we can have flexibility in pricing our items . . . If we had policies that invested in us by us we wouldn’t be resorting to absurdities of making youth work ’til 11pm.”
The Assembly held a hearing nearly a month ago, but the bill is lingering there. If it were passed, it would head to Governor Tony Evers.
Image courtesy: Chali Pittman / WORT News