Indiana Republican state Sen. Chip Perfect wants to scrap child labor rules for teens — including the hundreds he employs at a ski resort in the southeastern part of the state.
Under current state law, 16- and 17-year-old workers often have to clock out of their jobs before 10 p.m., and they can only work 30-hour weeks during the school year, unless they can prove parental consent. But in early January, Perfect introduced legislation that would do away with those requirements for minors.
The legislation would completely remove parental consent on hour limits for 16- and 17-year-old laborers, requirements barring some teens from working past 10 p.m., and a rule mandating 30-minute breaks for teens working six-hour shifts.
The move raises questions about whether Perfect wants to use his Statehouse authority to peel back rules that would directly benefit his business, which employs as many as 400 minors, according to the Indianapolis Star. The human resources director for the senator’s resort testified in favor of the bill last week, according to the Star.
Perfect did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment, but the state senator told the Washington Post that Indiana’s Senate Ethics Committee ruled his legislation did not pose a conflict of interest. Additionally, the state’s Senate rules don’t expressly forbid a lawmaker from filing a bill that would impact their business. Rather, Senate rules caution legislators to consider if a bill would have a “unique, direct and material effect.”
Plus, Perfect isn’t alone in advocating for the bill. Other small businesses that employ minors in the state complain the work permit rules are bureaucratic and outdated. Federal law, for example, doesn’t address hour limits for workers between the ages of 16 and 18 years old, although there are federal hour limits protecting younger teens.
"All of these Indiana-specific laws were passed for a reason," Rob Henderson, executive director of Indiana State AFL-CIO union, told the Star. "Just undoing them, … I don’t understand the intent, other than just trying to be able to work minors more hours."
This is hardly the first time lawmakers have attempted to loosen child labor rules on a state or federal level. In May, the Trump administration’s Labor Department was reportedly weighing a plan to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work longer, supervised hours in more hazardous workplaces, like roofing jobs and chainsaw work, according to Bloomberg Law. Usually, teens can only do that sort of work through vocational programs, typically limited to an hour each day.
Already, 12-year-olds across the country can work in one of the most dangerous professions — agriculture — since federal child labor laws often exempt minors who work on farms, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. In 17 states, primarily in the southern U.S., child farm laborers are exempted from most or all of state labor laws.
Children as young as 7 work on small tobacco farms in North Carolina during picking season, according to NPR, as there is no minimum age requirement for children working on small or family-owned farms.
Cover image: A lifeguard stands at its post as people enjoy a beach day at the New Jersey shore, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, in Seaside Heights, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)