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Schools Cut Out of Minors’ Work Permit Process Under Bill

May 28, 2024

An online database would track work permits for minors 17 and under, meaning schools would no longer be monitoring the permits, under HB 5594, which received testimony in the House Labor Committee Thursday.

Michigan’s current permitting process for youths under 18 was passed before the internet existed, and school districts were the closest unit of government to working teenagers, said bill sponsor Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-Grand Rapids). To modernize the Youth Employment Standard Act, schools would still be able to revoke work permits and they will still be informed about them, but they are no longer a factor in their processing.

Whether the application process is created using an app or a “MI” login, as is becoming more popular for resident-facing government websites, a database would be created, showing where minors are employed and giving the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) a chance to educate employers on child labor laws.

Randall Harrison, assistant administrator of the Office of Labor within LEO, gave an anecdote of inviting his teenage, working daughter to lunch one day, only to find out her first scheduled break wasn’t until 2:30 despite clocking in at 8:00 a.m. Under child labor laws, the minor employee gets a 30-minute break for every five hours worked, so he met with the general manager of where she worked and educated them on standards for having a minor on staff.

“My daughter went to work that Sunday, and she told me that her manager said he really appreciated that I came out and informed him of what they needed to do,” Harrison said. “The conversation that I had with that general manager and the owner are conversations that investigators can have up front with business owners to educate them of the law, if they know where these minors are employed.”

Rep. Tom Kunse (R-Clare) said he was worried that the public registry of employers would be like a scarlet letter, shaming employers that hire minors. He added later that a W-2 or the permit applications themselves already have the information the database seeks to centralize.

“There’s no shame in employing young people as long as you’re abiding by the law,” Skaggs said, adding that minors looking for employment would be able to use the list to find businesses willing to hire youths.

Later, Sean Egan, deputy director of Labor, said LEO doesn’t receive W-2 tax forms, and these task forces don’t identify age.

“I’m sure the state of Michigan has your birthdate when you file your taxes. I don’t accept that,” Kunse said.

The current system is complaint driven, meaning a business isn’t being addressed until a violation is already reported.

Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) asked if it is fair to say that the onus of enforcement is being put on a minor or their parents to file a complaint, and Egan said yes.

Kunse asked if a 16-year-old with a labor violation complaint would feel more comfortable reporting it to a school counselor, or logging onto a website and filing it that way. Egan said they’d have to ask a 16-year-old.

“That’s rhetorical. Clearly, they’d be more comfortable talking to someone they trust and know, versus an un-faced bureaucracy. The issue of keeping this local is that no one knows the student better than the schools,” he said.

Egan said there’s nothing stopping the employee from talking to the school counselor.

Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City) asked who Egan thinks has a better understanding of child labor laws, a school counselor or LEO, to which Egan responded, “LEO.”


Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter

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