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Department Approves Change in Work Rules for Child Workers
MADISON Educators will be able to assign students work activities in the school cafeteria, or library without fear of violating child labor laws thanks to a rule change approved by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).
The action came about after state regulators decided that current state rules prohibited educators from asking an eight-year-old to work in the school library during recess to pay for damaged property.
Current state rules on child labor contain no specific provisions for students who perform services such as helping in the lunchroom or cafeteria or performing minor clerical work in the school office or library. Because of this, any of these activities performed by a child could be interpreted as a violation of child labor laws under state rules.
"Teachers and school staff deserve to have discretion when it comes to making decisions on student activities," DWD Secretary Linda Stewart said. "They shouldnt have to worry about whether working in the lunchroom during a 15 minute recess constitutes employment, especially when federal rules clearly indicate such activities are not employment."
The need for the change was brought to light when an elementary school student was required to help in the school library during recess to pay for library material he damaged. The childs parent complained to the department arguing that the student should have been paid minimum wage for the work he was required to do. Moreover, the parent argued that state rules prohibited the child, who was eight, from working at all. According to current state rules, the parents arguments were valid. The departments Equal Rights division sided with the parent and ordered the school to comply with state rules.
Under the approved changes, which would bring state policy more in line with federal standards, student work activity would not be sufficient to constitute employment if it has an educational benefit for the student and does not add more than one hour to the school day. Students must also be supervised by an adult, and the activities performed by the student must not displace a regular employee.
"Common sense dictates that we make this change," Stewart said. "It is reasonable to assume that a student who helps out in the school cafeteria or library for less than an hour a day is not an employee."
The rule change is strongly supported by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The proposed changes must be approved by the legislature before they can take effect.
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Content Contact: Marty Shannon