Rep. Sheryl Delozier
Allentown Morning Call
I have introduced legislation that deals with our state’s outdated child labor law. In House Bill 927, I propose a comprehensive rewrite of Pennsylvania’s current Child Labor Act. While this may sound like a daunting modification, my legislation is not aimed at reinventing the wheel when it comes to the current restrictions and limitations set forth for the employment of young workers.
In fact, my bill keeps intact most of the current law’s standards. House Bill 927 simply seeks to modernize the law to simplify compliance with guidelines set forth at both the state and federal level, for both employers and minors. Pennsylvania’s regulations on child labor are remarkably inconsistent with regulations at the federal level.
The commonwealth’s current Child Labor Act has several inconsistencies as well as many archaic provisions that are both unnecessary and contradictory, stemming from the fact that the law was written in 1915. It is safe to say that the work environment for our minors has changed dramatically since child labor laws were originally written in Pennsylvania.
As a state representative, I have listened to numerous complaints from small business and large industry employers who are frustrated with the confusion between state and federal laws. Employers must already be extremely cautious when scheduling and assigning duties to employees under the age of 18. Deciphering inconsistent standards can create more confusion for both employees and employers and result in less compliance with the state’s laws. In the past, there have been several occasions throughout the state in which businesses that were following the state law were cited by the U.S. Department of Labor for violations of federal law.
At a hearing recently held in Harrisburg on my bill, criticisms came from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. However, most of these concerns were with current law, not the changes that House Bill 927 would make.
Issues that were brought up included concerns with the number of hours that 16- and 17-year-olds can work. My bill would allow the number of workable hours per week to change from 44 hours to 48 hours. The reason behind this change was to allow the option for 16- and 17-year-olds who are saving for school or a car, or are helping their families make ends meet. This change provides them a choice.
Another portion of the bill reduces the number of hours for 14- and 15-year-old employees, aligning the state law with federal requirements. Existing Pennsylvania child labor law states that a 14- or 15-year-old can work four hours a day during a school week while federal law limits them to three hours a week.
At the hearing, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO was opposed to changing to a 5 a.m. start time for minors delivering newspapers. This regulation exists in the current law and no change was made regarding this in my bill.
Another concern that was voiced was the classification of hazardous jobs. My legislation eliminates the current law’s specific listing of occupations and activities which are prohibited and instead incorporates a direct reference to allowing only employment that is permitted at the federal level. Child labor regulations pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are extensive and specific, and it is my intent, with House Bill 927, to adopt them as Pennsylvania’s standards as well.
In addition, if hazardous jobs specific to Pennsylvania need to be added in the future, the Department of Labor and Industry has the authority to add these restrictions by regulation. This will make it easier to protect our minors without going through the lengthy process of changing the law.
As it stands, nothing in my bill is written in stone. I have pledged to work with all interest groups to arrive at a bipartisan bill that members of the House can support. There were a number of clarifications brought up at the hearing dealing with the definition of school vacations, consecutive days and penalties for those who knowingly breach the law. I believe that we can work together on the issues mentioned and ultimately pass this bill, demonstrating that both parties in the House can work together to produce strong legislation to protect Pennsylvania’s minor workers.
State Rep. Sheryl Delozier, a Republican, represents the 88th District in Cumberland County.