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|Wednesday, November 3, 1999 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
Contact: Heidi Kafura
DWD SEEKS RULE CHANGE TO GIVE SCHOOLS MORE FLEXIBILITY
MADISONThe Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is seeking a rule change that will give Wisconsin schools more flexibility in holding students accountable for their actions.
Wisconsins current child labor law allows little flexibility for schools to engage students in work-related activities at school as restitution for misbehavior. The new rule would give schools more flexibility by establishing certain conditions under which student activities at school are not considered employment for purposes of child labor and minimum wage laws.
The proposal comes on the heels of a recent complaint filed with DWDs Equal Rights Division against a Monona school for making a grade school student work to pay for library material, the librarian said he had damaged. The student was required to forgo recesses and instead, work in the school library until he paid for the damaged material at the rate of $.50 a recess. The students father filed a complaint claiming the schools action violated Wisconsin child labor laws. Under current law, the state found the school at fault for violating child labor laws and ordered the district to pay the boy and father $1.13.
"Wisconsin schools should have the flexibility to appropriately discipline their students," said DWD Secretary Linda Stewart. "Our laws should allow room for common sense, and this rule change will do that."
Federal law is more flexible than the current state law. Current state administrative rules on labor standards and child labor do not contain specific provisions for students who perform services such as minor clerical work in the school office or library. However, the federal law has a provision stating student activities of this type should not be treated as employment under the wage and hour laws as long as certain conditions are met. Federal law allows students to work no more than an hour a day, five days a week to pay for misbehavior.
Stewart said that the proposed state rule change would bring the state law in line with the federal law. DWD is proposing to adopt the same federal standards by providing that a student activity will not be treated as employment if the activity has an educational benefit for the student, does not add more than one hour to the school day and does not cause the displacement of a regular employee.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the rule at a public hearing, which will be scheduled in December. The rule must be approved by the legislature before it can take effect.