Senate passes bill that regulates employment of minors

The Indiana Senate on Thursday approved updated rules for how and when businesses can employ minors, sending the legislation to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Senate Bill 409, authored by Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, eliminates the work-permit requirement for minors and tweaks some of the hours they can work.

The bill also switches oversight of child labor from the Indiana Department of Education to the Indiana Department of Labor, and requires the labor department to create a public database for businesses to register with if they employ minors.

The Senate voted 39-3 to approve the bill. The House passed the same version of the bill 90-3 on Tuesday. Holcomb can sign the bill into law, veto it or let it pass into law without his signature.

The legislation updates state law to mirror federal regulations overseeing the employment of minors ages 14 and 15 years old.

Federal law limits 14-15-year-olds to working up to eight hours per day on non-school days and no more than three hours per day on school days. They are limited to 40 hours per week when not in school and 18 hours per week when in school. They also cannot work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., unless it is between June 1 and Labor Day, when they can work until 9 p.m.

Current state law limits 14- and 15-year-olds to working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on days that precede school days and until 10 p.m. on days that do not precede a school day.

SB 409 limits 16-17-year-olds to working up to nine hours per day, 40 hours in a school week and 48 hours in a non-school week. Current law allows this only with written parental permission.

The bill also restricts 16- and 17- year-olds to working six days in any given week and to jobs not starting before 6 a.m. They can work until 10 p.m. in certain occupations and, if they have written permission from a parent, they can work until 11 p.m. on a night prior to a school day.

The hours are extended from current law, which limits work to eight hours per day and 30 hours in a week. Current law also allows 17-year-olds to work until 11:30 p.m. with written permission from a parent.

Federal law does not restrict how many hours 16- and 17-year-olds may work.

Some exceptions for work-based learning programs through schools are carved out in the legislation.

The bill also removes several other requirements, including giving minors rest breaks and getting written permission from a child’s school to have them work between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Instead of requiring students to receive work permits from their school, the bill requires the Department of Labor to establish a public database where employers would have to register, acknowledging they employ minors.

Information on the minors the businesses employ would only be made available to the Department of Labor, but the list of companies would be public.

Messmer said the labor department also agreed to make the information on the minors available to schools, so officials would know when students are working.

“We didn’t tell them they have to but they said they can,” Messmer said.

The bill calls for the database to be developed by July 1, 2021.

The legislation is somewhat similar to a measure filed in 2019 by Sen. Chip Perfect, R-Lawrenceburg. Perfect’s bill also would have removed the work permit requirements for minors, but it went a step further and also eliminated restrictions on hours that 16- and 17-year-olds could work. Some critics of the bill argued that was going too far.

Perfect also was accused of having a conflict of interest because he is the CEO of Perfect North Slopes, a ski resort that employs hundreds of minors. After that criticism, Perfect killed the bill last year.

Perfect voted in favor of SB 409 on Thursday. In a statement previously shared with IBJ, Perfect said the Senate Ethics Committee told him it was not an ethical violation for him to vote on it.

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