Washington lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow older teenagers to work nearly full time during the school year, despite warnings that their schoolwork could suffer.
Both houses are considering liberalizing teen-work rules that have been under fire by employers ever since they were handed down in 1993 by the state Department of Labor & Industries.
The House Commerce and Labor Committee took conflicting testimony Monday on a measure that would allow 16- and 17-year olds to work a maximum 36 hours a week when school is in session. That’s an eight-hour increase in the most liberal workweek currently possible for such teens - 28 hours.
For those under 16, now restricted to 16 hours a week during the school year, HB1911 proposes a two-hour increase, to 18 hours.
“Kids’ No. 1 job is to go to school,” said Barbara Casey of the Washington State PTA. “Their job is not to be an employee.”
But Trevor Irish, a senior at North Thurston High School in Olympia, said working supplements his education - both financially and in preparing him for the real world.
“It teaches us things schools can’t teach you,” said the 19-year-old.
The bills only cover teens 17 and younger so Irish is not affected. He testified about his experience as a younger worker.
Irish said he has been working since he was 15 to help pay for things his single mother couldn’t afford.
He said a lot of his friends get turned down for jobs because of the paperwork hassle and the limited hours they can work.
The changes are endorsed by the state Restaurant Association and the Association of Washington Businesses.
Under current law, a minor must get a work permit from the state and have it signed by a parent and a school official. The House bill would drop the school-signature requirement for students who work less than 20 hours a week.
A similar Senate proposal, SB5810, was scheduled for a public hearing today before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
Teens who work more than 20 hours a week are more likely to run into problems in school and out, said Frank Leuck of the state Department of Labor & Industries.
Current rules limit 16- and 17-year-olds to a 20-hour work week during the school year, and no more than four hours a day. Such teens can work up to 28 hours a week if they get permission from the school and a parent.
Youths under 16 can work three hours a day and no more than 16 hours a week.
The House proposal would ease the rules for 16- and 17-year-olds, allowing them to work six hours a day during school weeks but no more than 20 hours a week. With a variance, those hours could be extended to eight hours on school days and up to 36 hours a week. When school is not in session, the older teens could work 10 hours a day, 48 hours a week.
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