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Ohio Bill Would Provide More Flexibility for Young Workers

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Wednesday, March 30, 2022   

By Trista Bowser
Broadcast version by Mary Schuermann reporting for the Kent State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration.


Due to the labor shortage in Ohio, many companies are employing teens who are looking to get into the workforce to keep their business going. An Ohio bill is being created to allow these teens to work later hours throughout the school year.

Mike Todd, 53, has been an owner of two Dairy Queens in Ohio for the past 24 years, one of which is located in Pickerington. Recently, he has noticed that many of the worker applicants are under 16 years of age.

"I'd say at least 60% to 65% of my employees are of high school age," Todd said.

Currently, 14 and 15-year-old workers are unable to work past 7 p.m. and can only work three hours in a day for only 18 hours in a week due to state and federal laws. In the summer when school isn't in session, teens are allowed to work until 9 p.m.

"Traditionally, most quick-service restaurants, and probably most sit-down restaurants as well, their peak hours are after 7 p.m.," Todd said. "The people who are under the age of 16, they provide a very vital role for us, to kind of fill in the gaps before the nighttime rush begins."

State Sen. Tim Schaffer proposed changing these rules in Senate Bill 251, which would allow minors to work with more flexibility.

Schaffer, 59, who represents the 20th District in the Ohio State Senate, heard about Todd's situation and immediately wanted to help find a solution.

Senator Schaffer was pulled aside by the executive director of the Pickerington Chamber of Commerce and asked if he had heard about Mike Todd's issue. "Everybody's hearing all about the struggle to get good workers in their businesses," said Schaffer. "That's not a secret. Everybody is struggling with that, but nobody has really said anything about expanding the hours that teenagers could work."

Senate Bill 251 would allow teens to work until 9 p.m. both in the summer and the school year, but it would still limit them to three hours per day on school days and 18 hours per week.

"I'd emphasize the guard rails that are already in the law that we're not changing, which is that they can't work more than three hours on a school day... and they can't work more than 18 hours a week during school session," Schaffer said.

Brandon Janis, 25, is one of the owners of Gino's Pizzeria in Medina.

At Gino's, around 50% of their employees are still in high school.

"We definitely try to target sophomores and juniors, that way they know they have a job all through high school and if they end up going to college, they can stay with us to deliver," said Janis.

But Janis said it can be difficult at times to schedule these students while meeting the needs of their education, extracurricular activities and the amount of hours that they are legally able to work.

"It's pretty hard to juggle when they can leave and what days they can actually work, because obviously everybody has different schedules. If they have some sports that they're playing, we have to work around that. It's definitely challenging," Janis said, though "I'm not saying it's impossible because we've been doing it for the last five years."

Eve Nevar, 18, a senior at Agape Christian Academy, works at a pizza shop and does some landscaping. It can be difficult to balance school, extracurricular activities, and work as she is busy with basketball along with taking college credit classes.

"It's kind of a struggle. I think it's beneficial because it helps me learn time management, but I also think it's kind of hard to keep up with sometimes. I have to figure out when I can work but [also] how can I get my paper written," Nevar said.

Nevar believes that S.B. 251 would be beneficial to high school students.

"I think it would definitely be helpful having more flexibility. I think that would help a lot," Nevar said "High schoolers want to work, but it's hard to be able to when you also want to do extracurriculars."

The Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee is currently reviewing the bill. It is co-sponsored by two Republicans, Schaffer and Steve Wilson, and two Democrats, Tina Maharath and Kenny Yuko.

The outcome of Ohio Senate Bill 251 might hinge on federal action, though. The federal government still limits the hours teenagers can work.

The Ohio Senate has requested the same changes in the Fair Labor Standards Act that Ohio Senate Bill 251 proposes. That measure is now on its way to the Ohio House of Representatives.

"Getting anything through Congress, no matter how noble the cause, always takes longer," explained Schaffer via email.

"The bottom line is, we want people who want to work, and the majority of applications that we have received at our business show us that these young people want to work, they want the job, and they want the experience of having their own money and having their own set of responsibilities," said Todd.

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.


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