District 53 Newsletter: May 12, 2023

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour)

One of the significant bills passed in the last few days of the session was the update to the Iowa Code on Youth Employment, Senate File 542. SF 542 aims to update Iowa’s youth labor laws and expand opportunities for teenagers to work in Iowa. This section of code has not been updated in many years. Working a job or participating in a work-based learning program helps teenagers learn valuable life skills, save for the future, and explore possible career paths. This bill makes very reasonable changes in Iowa law to allow more flexibility in work schedules and work activities for teenagers. Remember, this bill doesn’t force anyone to work anywhere, it simply creates more opportunities for our youth.

There has been quite a bit of misinformation about what changes are made in this bill. This bill eliminates needless regulations and adds common sense work activities to what a teenager can do on the job. One example of this is that the previous law prevented a teenager (age 14-17) from operating a microwave in the workplace. This is of course absurd, a microwave oven is not dangerous, and teenagers surely use them frequently at home. Other sections of the code barred teenagers from doing laundry, or unloading groceries. Another code section barred a teenager from unloading common garden hand tools from a trailer. Imagine a teenager working a summer job raking lawns with a hand rake, but the law says the teenager can’t remove the hand rake from the trailer, an adult must do that. Absurd! This bill corrects many of these types of outdated limitations.

The bill does make some updates to the waivers Iowa Workforce Development can make to allow teenagers to perform additional work activities if it is through a work-based learning program. However, these waivers can only be granted if there is determined to be adequate supervision and training and safety precautions. It also must not interfere with the health, well-being, or schooling of the teen.

Another area where there has been considerable misinformation spread is with regard to teenagers serving alcohol. Under this bill, teenagers will not be allowed to serve alcohol at bars. However, the bill does allow 16 and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol at a restaurant as long as it is during the hours that the restaurant is serving food, there are at least two adults present to supervise, and the employer has consent from the employee’s parents. Think about an Applebee’s where an alcoholic beverage may be served along with a meal, there’s nothing wrong with a teenager bringing that drink to a table along with the meals.

Also, this bill allows employees under 16 to work until 9 pm during the school year and until 11 pm during the summer. The previous limit of 7 pm prevents many employers from hiring teenagers. For example, 7 pm is during the dinner rush for any food establishment, making hiring a teenager difficult because the teenager would have to quit in the middle of the rush. Additionally, many teenagers’ school sports or activities keep them out past 7 pm. Why shouldn’t they be able to work past 7 as well? These service jobs can serve as a great first job for our youth, and our service industry is crying for more help. Restaurants in this district have closed because they couldn’t find help.

Rep. Fisher’s district covers all of Poweshiek County and most of Tama County excluding Traer, Dysart, and Buckingham.