DES MOINES, Iowa — The child labor bill that took Iowa senators into a pre-dawn vote is raising concerns from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The department said in a review this month that Iowa's bill does violate federal labor law, and Iowa does not have the "authority to nullify federal regulations by enacting less protective standards."
Democrats sent an early version of the bill to the labor department for review in March, and while some illegal items were taken out in the final version, Iowa's bill does call for longer work hours for teens.
We want kids to be able to grow and to develop and learn, and having a standard that exceeds federal allowable work hours is not a good thing," State Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) said.
The proposal would allow minors under 16 to work six hours a day, three more than federal regulations allow. It would also extend workdays to 9 p.m. during the school year and to 11 p.m. during the summer.
However, federal law requires minors clock out at 7 p.m.. on school days and 9 p.m. over the summer.
Teenager schedules for extra-curricular activities routinely go well past the 9 p.m. limit in the bill during the school year, and many social schedules also regularly exceed the 11 p.m. limit during the summer," State Sen. Adrian Dickey (R-Packwood) said. "Those limits are very reasonable for the lifestyles of today’s youth."
However, Democrats worry the Iowa bill puts businesses at risk of unknowingly violating federal law.
"The inconsistencies between state and federal law may put them in a position where they unknowingly violate federal labor standards," Sen. Boulton said.
Sen. Dickey said this is a common sense bill that updates Iowa's outdated child labor laws.
“For years, nearly two dozen states, including Iowa’s current law, have youth employment laws out of sync with federal standards, and DOL has never made an issue of it," Sen. Dickey said.
The Federal Department of Labor says there is a problem with child labor nationwide, with more than 600 investigations underway, including here in Iowa.
"Expanding this to ways that lead to those grey areas that may allow some of those bad actors some protection is just unacceptable," Sen. Boulton said.
Governor Kim Reynolds hasn't signed the bill yet but she has said she supports allowing more working opportunities for Iowa kids.
"The goal of this legislation was to create more opportunities for youth and more flexibility for them to pursue potential careers," Sen. Dickey said.
Sen. Boulton said Gov. Reynolds should veto the bill to give lawmakers more time to work on it next session.