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Kentucky Senate panel rejects House-approved child labor law changes

Senate Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee Meeting 03-14-24
Stu Johnson
Senate Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee Meeting 03-14-24

A Kentucky Senate committee has rejected legislation aimed at modifying Kentucky’s child labor law. The measure would open the door to 16-and 17-year-olds working many more hours outside of school. Committee Chair Max Wise indicated the already House-approved bill could be taken up again in a special meeting. GOP Bill Sponsor Phillip Pratt believes laws are unintentionally being broken because state wage and hour laws are confusing.

“14 15 year olds, we follow the federal word for word. 16-17 year olds they start getting more restrictive, so again we’re just trying to keep small business who don’t have the resources of large businesses out of trouble with the Kentucky Wage and Hour Law,” said Pratt.

Speaking in opposition was Dustin Pugel (PEW-gel) with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. He said under the bill, the current school and work hour cap of 75 hours would be removed. On work safety issues, Pugel told committee members in some instances the bill takes Kentucky protections below federal law.

“While we are grateful to the sponsor for making changes to ensure that Kentucky kids are not working overnight, we remain deeply concerned about the impacts that removing state protections on daily and weekly hours worked and going below the federal standards on allowable occupations would have on job safety,” said Pugel.

Pugel said the bill language on apprenticeships would allow 16 and 17- year-olds to work jobs in coal mining and logging as well as other higher-risk jobs.

Pratt said the bill allows these teens to gain valuable work experience. He said the state can’t trump federal law when it comes to safety protections.


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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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