The U.S. Department of Labor says Iowa’s child labor bill may violate federal law.
The bill would allow minors to work more hours a day and allow them to work later. Under current Iowa law, children under 16 must stop working at 7 p.m. If the bill is signed into law, children under 16 would be able to work until 9 p.m. during the school year and 11 p.m. in the summer. The bill would also allow minors to work six hours on a school day.
On March 14, Iowa Senate Democrats sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor, requesting a review of the provisions.
On May 10, the Department of Labor responded in a letter, stating, in part, “the proposed Iowa legislation appears to be inconsistent with federal child labor law in several respects.”
The letter also states that the Department of Labor is conducting child labor investigations in Iowa.
The Department of Labor found the following areas of conflict:
- Iowa’s bill would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to “perform light assembly work,” which is not “specifically permitted” in federal law.
- Iowa’s bill would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to “perform non-incidental work in meat freezers,” which is “explicitly prohibited” by federal law.
- Iowa’s bill would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work both longer hours later into the day, which is in violation of federal law. Under federal law, 14- and 15-year-olds can only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year. They may only work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer. They may not work over three hours on a school day.
“This letter confirms what we’ve argued since this debate began: in the rush to expand child labor in Iowa, Republican legislators will be inviting businesses to break federal law,” Democratic state Sen. Nate Boulton, of Des Moines, said in a news release. “Protections against unsafe and exploitative child labor are there for a reason, and failed measures to address Iowa’s workforce crisis is no excuse to undermine those safeguards.”