The good and the bad of Iowa's bill that would bring big changes to child labor laws

A14-year-old works in an ice cream shop.
A14-year-old works in an ice cream shop.

*This story has been updated to reflect amendments to the child labor bill as well as the updated the bill number and link.

A new bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature would rewrite Iowa's child labor law to allow teens to work in previously prohibited jobs so long as they are part of an approved training program.

Here are some highlights of Senate File 542, the successor to Senate File 167.

List of prohibited jobs for teens remains

As with the existing law, the bill outlines the jobs that 14-17-year olds can do, like bagging and carrying groceries to cars, clerical work and preparing and serving food.

The bill also maintains a list of jobs kids under 18 can't hold, such as working in slaughterhouses, meatpacking or rendering plants; mining; operating power-driven metal forming, punching or shearing machines; operating band or circular saws, guillotine shears or paper balers; or being involved in roofing operations or demolition work. It makes a few modifications, such as removing a prohibition against 14- and 15-year-olds working in freezers and meat coolers.

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New section allows for exemptions

In an entirely new section, however, the bill would allow the Iowa Workforce Development and state Department of Education heads to make exceptions to any of the prohibited jobs for teens 14-17 "participating in work-based learning or a school or employer-administered, work-related program."

It says those asking for exceptions must demonstrate "the activity will be performed under adequate supervision and training;" that "the training includes adequate safety precautions;" and that "the terms and conditions of the proposed employment will not interfere with the health, well-being, or schooling of the minor enrolled in an approved program."

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Lawmaker removes language shielding businesses from liability

Republicans amended the bill so that it no longer exempts businesses from civil liability if a student is sickened, injured or killed due to either the student or the company's negligence. The bill allows students who are hurt or injured to claim benefits under the state's workers compensation program, which also allows benefits for parents whose child dies in a work-related accident.

A business still would be free of civil liability if a student is injured traveling to or from work, but the amended bill says a business would be liable if a teen is hurt while driving for work.

A company could face fines of up to $10,000 for violations under the bill, but the state's labor commissioner could reduce or waive the penalty.

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Serving alcohol, driving to work, late hours

The bill in addition would allow 16- and 17-year-olds with the written permission of a parent, legal custodian or guardian to serve alcohol to people who are drinking it on the premises of a business.

It would some children under 16 to drive themselves to work-based programs. The Iowa Department of Transportation says online a student must be 14 1/2 years old to obtain a special driver's license.

And it would let kids under 16 work until 9 p.m. instead of quitting by 7 p.m. And quitting time would be extended to 11 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Key points of bill to change Iowa child labor law