COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio lawmakers are again considering a proposal to let 14- and 15-year-olds work past 7 p.m. on school nights.
Senate Bill 30, introduced by Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) on Feb. 8, would allow the younger teens to work until 9 p.m. year-round so long as a parent or guardian approves, overhauling Ohio law that requires them to clock out no later than 7 p.m. during the school year.
“Doing so will help employers across Ohio and our country with our staffing problems and encourage kids to further develop their good working skills,” Schaffer said.
There’s one caveat, however. Because the federal Fair Labor Standards Act generally prohibits 14- and 15-year-olds from working past 7 p.m. except in the summer, Schaffer’s bill would only apply to employers exempt from the FLSA’s regulations, according to the Legislative Service Commission.
Businesses earning less than $500,000 in annual sales and those that don’t engage in interstate commerce could, with parental permission, employ 14- and 15-year-olds past 7 p.m., the FLSA states. Larger, nationwide companies like McDonald’s and Chipotle, however, would not be afforded the same luxury.
To address SB 30’s inconsistencies with federal employment law, Schaffer introduced a concurrent resolution to urge Congress to expand the hours 14- and 15-year-olds can work. The bill also maintains existing guardrails for Ohio children, he said, like prohibiting 14- and 15-year-olds from working between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. during the school year.
Tod Bowen, managing director for external affairs and government relations for the Ohio Restaurant Association, said extending teenagers’ permissible work hours to 9 p.m. is a reasonable way to help young Ohioans grow – and, as an added bonus, keep them off electronics.
“Employment opportunities, especially in sectors like food service, retail and hospitality, provide young people the chance to interact with the public and learn critical life skills such as customer service, problem solving and time management,” Bowen said.
But Tim Burga, president of Ohio’s chapter of the AFL-CIO labor union, said lawmakers must tread cautiously before forging ahead with a bill that rolls back provisions in the FLSA, which was adopted in 1938 to prevent kids from being exploited in the workplace.
“Are 14- and 15-year-olds that work past 7 p.m. on a school night more likely to be injured on the job? What will be the impact of their education?” Burga said. “If you’re working till 9 o’clock on a school night and trying to figure out a way to get home and all that … are you more likely to miss class in the morning?”
In order to get the greenlight to work past 7 p.m. on a school night, Schaffer said the teen must have both a parent or guardian and their school’s superintendent sign off on a work permit.
“All three have to be in sync before that first hour of work can be done,” he said.
On Wednesday, members of the Workforce and Higher Education Committee added an amendment to SB 30, authored by Sen. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati), requiring that 14- and 15-year-olds’ work permits explicitly note the hours they can work to avoid confusion among employers and parents.
“Kids are probably hanging out, playing games anyway till 9 o’clock,” Ingram said, “but I don’t want us to take advantage of the fact that they’re still 14- and 15-year-olds.”
The Senate unanimously passed an earlier version of Schaffer’s bill in December, but the House failed to take it up. Its current iteration awaits additional consideration from the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee.