Child Labor Regulations Relaxed in Iowa

On May 26, 2023, Iowa experienced a significant development in its child labor laws as Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new bill into law. This legislation, which had previously cleared the state legislature (House 60-34, Senate 29-18), was submitted to Governor Reynolds for her final approval on May 3, 2023. The newly enacted law modifies existing child labor regulations in Iowa. Here are some of the key changes that have drawn attention.  

Working Hours:

The recent changes in child labor laws bring expanded flexibility for 14- and 15-year-olds regarding their working hours. Previously, these young individuals were restricted to working until 7 p.m. during the school year and 9 p.m. during the summer, with a maximum of 4 hours per day during the school year. However, under the new law, 14- and 15-year-olds are now permitted to work until 9 p.m. during the school year and until 11 p.m. during the summer. Additionally, the law allows them to work up to 6 hours per day during the school year.  

Work Permits:

The new law eliminates the requirement for employers to obtain work permits when employing minors between the ages of 14 and 17. Previously, employers were obligated to secure work permits to hire these young individuals. 

Work Opportunities:

The new law preserves many of the previously restricted job opportunities for individuals under 18 years of age, with some modifications. Notably, 14- and 15-year-olds are now permitted to work in industrial laundry services and momentarily work in freezers and meat coolers. Additionally, the law grants authority to the Iowa Workforce Development and State Department of Education to grant exceptions to the listed prohibited jobs for 14- to 17-year-olds participating in work-based learning programs or school/employer-administered work-related programs. 

Furthermore, the new law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in restaurants, subject to certain conditions. These conditions include obtaining parental permission, ensuring the presence of two adult employees, reporting any instances of harassment of minors to both parents and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, mandatory workplace harassment prevention training for the workers, and the requirement for restaurant owners to inform their dramshop insurance provider of the minor's involvement in alcohol service. 

Lastly, 10 to 13-year-olds are no longer allowed to work in street occupations, such as selling newspapers or migratory labor conditions.  

Protection for Minors:

Under the new law, anyone who is a sexually violent predator or registered sex offender may not employ a minor. 

Under the originally proposed bill, employers would have been protected from liability in cases where a student worker sustains an injury or causes harm to someone else while on the job. However, the signed law maintains the current approach. It ensures that minors who experience workplace injuries have the ability to seek benefits through the state's workers' compensation program.  

Driving Permits:

The new law establishes a committee with the purpose of examining the feasibility of allowing 14-year-olds to obtain special driver's permits for commuting to work. Currently, the law permits students who are 14 ½-years-old to acquire special driver's permits specifically for driving to their workplace. 

Starting July 1, 2023, the new law will come into effect. However, labor groups, the Biden administration, and the Department of Labor have raised concerns and criticized the law for its non-compliance with federal regulations. According to federal law, 14- and 15-year-olds are restricted to working a maximum of three hours per day during school days. Additionally, they are not permitted to work beyond 7 p.m. during the school year and 9 p.m. during the summer. 

Despite the new state law coming into effect on July 1, 2023, it is important to understand that federal laws take precedence in situations of conflict and maintain compliance with them. 

If you have any questions about your business or your employees, please contact me or your BrownWinick Employment & Labor attorney. We are here to offer trusted legal advice and add value to any matter, including those with complex and novel issues. Special thanks to summer associate, Sarah Herz for her assistance with this update.    

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