A bill in the legislature would eliminate the requirement for 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain work permits and replace the language of “child labor” in the statute. Senate Bill 11 was authored by a group of Republican senators and cosponsored by Representative Joel Kitchens.
“It started with advocates for unaccompanied youth,” said Kitchens. “It was very difficult for them to get work permits and a parent’s signature and all that. The author thought maybe they could get a waiver but that’s a very difficult thing, too. There were more and more problems with it and it seemed like needless bureaucracy.”
There would not be any changes to the number of hours teens can work or the requirement that they work outside of school hours, it only removes the permitting process.
Opponents to the bill, including the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO union representatives, say the permits provide the teen and their parents with a better understanding of the work the child will be doing. It can prevent abuse of young employees doing jobs outside the scope of what was agreed upon.
“Obviously we’re leaving parents out of this, but as a parent, if your kids are sneaking off to go to work you could have more problems,” said Kitchens.
Businesses are generally in favor of the removal of work permits. Businesses are required to complete the permits with the teen, strictly listing out their responsibilities and then ensuring the teen only performs the tasks listed on their permit.
“I think in general the businesses we’ve heard of that have been supportive of doing it. Businesses definitely don’t like having to deal with it,” said Kitchens.
Adjacent states such as Iowa and Illinois do not require work permits for 16- and 17-year-olds. The removal of the permit in Wisconsin could have the same effects on teens from those states and increase the potential pool of applicants for summer seasonal positions such as those in Door County.
The bill also removes the phrase “child labor” form the statutes and replaces it with “employment of minors.”