NJ miners could work 50 hours a week under new bill

A bill passed by the New Jersey legislature aims to dramatically increase the number of hours minors can work during summer vacation and after school.

If passed and signed into law, the bill, as currently drafted, could also limit parents’ involvement in the working lives of their school-aged children.

Coming during a critical labor shortage in the state, the bill, A-4222, would improve and digitize the child labor process, increase the number of hours 16- and 17-year-olds can work during the summer holidays from 40 hours. a week at 50, and increase shifts for teenagers 14 and older from five to six hours with a 30-minute break for a meal.

Sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Roy Freiman, D-Somerset, the bill passed the Assembly quickly and is now awaiting Senate committee approval.

The details

The legislation provides for the creation of a central database containing the names of minors seeking employment. Parental permission will not be required for a minor to be added to the database, according to the bill. Once a minor’s name is in the database, parents would receive an automated notification that their child has applied for a work permit from the state. This process bypasses the written parent or guardian consent that teenagers currently need to receive a work permit.

The state Department of Labor would be tasked with creating a streamlined digital process for minors to receive approval to apply for jobs.

The state would be responsible for notifying parents of their children’s intention to work and receiving their approval to allow their children to work. The bill places the burden of completing the work application on the minor, who would also be required to provide the state with the names and email addresses of their parents or legal guardian. Parents must be notified within three days of state approval of a child’s job application, but minors can begin work if they do not hear from the state for a week.

The current process, according to the state Department of Labor, requires all minors under the age of 18 to have a work certificate or “work papers” in order to work. To obtain the certificate, Form A300, available on the State and Schools site, must be completed by the teen, school, and parent and submitted.

A designated school official reviews the form and, once “satisfied that the working conditions and hours will not interfere with a student’s education or harm a student’s health”, may approve the form . The official, according to the state’s website, “may refuse to issue work documents if such refusal is in the best interests of the minor.”

Not all are favorable

Working longer hours during a time of critical labor shortages benefits employers more than teens, said Diana Auten, a parent advocate with the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network. She said she was not in favor of the 50-hour workweek for older youths or extending shifts to six hours for young teenagers. She is also not in favor of circumventing the initial parental authorization.

Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work 48 hours a week when school is not in session. Maine allows older teenagers to work 50 hours and Arkansas 54 hours.

“Allowing young people to work 50 hours a week is like allowing employers to require young people to work 50 hours a week to get a job,” Auten said. “The stated goal is to benefit companies that are struggling to hire staff. These companies may be able to attract more staff by offering a higher hourly rate instead of dramatically increasing the work week for workers. growing teenagers.

A 50-hour workweek is unhealthy even for adults and shouldn’t be forced on young people, who tend to have unmet sleep needs, and not just because it’s already happening in other states, a she declared.

The proposed legislation needs some changes, SPAN said in a statement. “While we recognize that the working papers process can be onerous and that it may be time to make changes to it, we do not support some of the other changes,” said Peg Kinsell, director of SPAN policies.

A shortage of lifeguards has kept swimming pools and beaches closed.

“I doubt most teenage workers are aware of state-enforced breaks,” or the proposed increase to six-hour shifts, said Rutgers University professor of professional practice Carmen Martino. , School of Management and Labor Relations.

Teens don’t know their rights at work and overtime for extended hours, Martino said. Increased working hours encourage staff shortages and can lead to injuries among workers due to stress and physical exertion, he said.

Based on the list of organizations that supported the bill’s passage, Martino said the bill’s movement through the Assembly had a lot to do with current seasonal demands on the Jersey Shore and companies like Six Flags Great Adventure that experience increased labor demand in the summer. . The only potential labor pool left to tap was that of teenagers, he said.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, South Jersey Chamber of Commerce and New Jersey Food Council were among the groups that supported the bill. Companies that supported him included Morey’s Piers, Six Flags Great Adventure and several others.

Legislation that updates an old way of doing things with what works for teen workers and employers makes sense, but shouldn’t come at a cost to young people, Martino said.

Parent involvement

The wording of the bill regarding parental permissions indicates that parents can choose not to extend summer working hours for their children, but it does not specify other situations in which a parent can intervene. The parent of a 14 or 15 year old can keep his child from working after 7 p.m. and after 11 p.m. for 16 and 17 year olds.

“I don’t understand why parents are being left out until the state informs them of the opt-out for extended summer work hours,” Martino said. Parents should be involved early on, he said, as they begin looking for summer work.

“I for one want to know if my child has registered with the state for a summer job, and I would definitely like to know how that process is going, with whom my child is applying for a job, where, hourly work, employer reputation, etc.,” Martino said.

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The legislative intent of the bill was not to keep parents out, but rather to increase working hours and update a decades-old process for acquiring work documents for jobs. , said Freiman, the main sponsor of the bill.

“The essence” of the bill was to take the temporarily approved extended work hours for teenagers that went into effect during the pandemic in 2021 and make it a permanent thing, Freiman said.

“You still need parental approval for granting work papers, and that will be done electronically,” he said. The reason this is not explicitly mentioned in the bill is that it only deals with increased hours and parental permissions for those hours, he said. But the bill could be clearer on that, he said.

After speaking to The Record/NorthJersey.com about parental permission, Freiman said he spoke with Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, the Senate bill’s sponsor, and the two agreed to update the language to remove any doubt as to parental consecration. participation.

“I think if there are concerns that can be easily resolved by putting clear language on legislative intent, there’s no reason we shouldn’t,” Freiman said. “The legislative intent of the bill was to make permanent what we had during COVID in terms of the permitted number of hours a minor can work.”

It was agreed that the wording of the bill will be updated “to avoid confusion” about parental involvement, he said. The wording of the new bill includes only updates to a 1940 law, which means that existing protections for parental involvement and children would remain in place, he added.

Currently, minors must complete a state-provided A300 form for each job they apply for.

The proposed centralized database would no longer require teens to fill out the form, but the bill is unclear whether parents will be notified each time their child applies for a job.

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Removing schools from work paper processes is a good idea during the summer, but not when school is in session, said Gordon Marzano, who runs Marzano Human Resources Consulting in Wayne. Many of his clients own and operate small businesses.

“Schools should be aware of minors working during the school year. Students who struggle with their grades may need to focus more on their studies than on their work,” he said. He wondered if a miner’s interests could be sacrificed in the effort to create an efficient process for applying for jobs.

The bill would also create a Juvenile Employment Advisory Council to advise the Department of Labor. The council would have one parent representative and two business representatives appointed by the legislature, as well as representatives from the labor and education departments.

Why, asked Kinsell of SPAN, would employers get two seats on this council and parents only one?

Mary Ann Koruth covers education for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about schools in New Jersey and how it affects your children, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @MaryAnnKoruth

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