Teen Worker Permit Requirement would be Eliminated under GOP Bill

Children who are 14 and 15 years old would no longer need work permits approved by the state in order to get jobs in most fields other than agriculture, under a Republican bill debated Thursday. State data shows there have been 32,912 work permits issued this year.

Rep. Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, told members of the state Assembly Committee on Labor and Integrated Employment that his plan would eliminate “government red tape and bureaucracy” and doesn’t impact any existing child labor laws.

“If a teenager wants a job, they should be able to apply to a job and start working,” Moses said. “They shouldn’t need approval by their school and state to obtain a job.”

In 2017, GOP lawmakers and former Gov. Scott Walker modified child labor laws to eliminate work permit requirements for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Moses told colleagues that 16 other states have already removed work permit requirements for all teenagers, stating Wisconsin “is about halfway there.”

Industry groups like the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Wisconsin Independent Businesses, Inc. have registered in support of eliminating the state’s work permit requirement. Two unions, the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, registered in opposition.

A spokesperson for Governor Tony Evers did not respond to a WPR request for comment on whether he’d support the bill.

While the repeal of the work permit statutes wouldn’t change other child labor protections in Wisconsin, a fiscal estimate provided by the state Department of Workforce Development said it eliminates funding used by the agency to educate employers about the allowable hours of work per week and monitor employers’ compliance with the law.

Currently, those applying for work permits pay a $10 fee, which is reimbursed by employers. The DWD estimates the repeal would reduce revenues by around $144,000 per year.