Labor Department to re-propose ‘parental exemption’

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The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division plans to re-propose the "parental exemption" portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture.

The decision to re-propose is in part a response to requests from the public and members of Congress that the agency allow an opportunity for more input on this aspect of the rule, according to Department of Labor official at a press conference on Wednesday.

The parental exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent.

Proposed child labor regulations have raised concern in the agricultural community. Until now, it has been assumed that children can continue to perform tasks if working for their parents. See “Vilsack clarifies DOL child labor proposal.” But the complex nature of farm corporations or partnerships has raised questions about some of these relationships.

The portion of the proposed rule in question would have placed restrictions on the many family farms that have established their operations as a corporation or a partnership. 

Until the revised exemption is final, the Wage and Hour Division will apply the parental exemption to situations in which the parent or person standing in the place of a parent is a part owner of the farm, a partner in a partnership or an officer of a corporation that owns the farm if the ownership interest in the partnership or corporation is substantial.

"I want to applaud  Secretary (of Labor Hilda) Solis and the Department of Labor for their decision to re-propose this portion of the rule to ensure kids across the nation have the opportunity to learn the value and reward of good old-fashioned farm work, while still providing protection to children from the most dangerous aspects of farming," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has called on the Labor Department to withdraw the entire rule to protect the ability of youth to work on the family farm.

“While I am pleased the Department of Labor has listened to common sense straight from America’s farmers and ranchers, this proposed regulation would threaten the most fundamental tradition in agriculture — working on the family farm,” Roberts said, “I encourage them to scrap the whole thing and start over,” he said.

“This proposed rule is another unfortunate example of the kinds of burdensome and stupid regulations pouring out of this Administration,” Roberts said. “I encourage them to reconsider the entire rule.”

The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions, according to the Labor Department. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer.

The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule.

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Gracie Ann Hill    
Idaho  |  February, 01, 2012 at 05:26 PM

US Dept of Labor needs to step out of the regulation business and withdraw the entire rule--just as U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has called on the Labor Department to withdraw the entire rule to protect the ability of youth to work on the family farm. No more government regulation. Young people learn how to work---is that bad?

Larry Moorehead    
Tn.  |  February, 02, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Your exactly right. I wanted to work when i was a kid. My father would let me try anything on the farm he thought I was big enough to do and if I could do it then it was my job and this made me feel great. Just part of growing up.

B thompson    
Los Angeles, ca  |  February, 01, 2012 at 08:36 PM

This has precious little to do with the prevention of danger to children. It has everything to do with government control of labor and taxation.

Mark Bertram    
Iowa  |  February, 02, 2012 at 08:56 AM

I worked on a neighors farm beginning at 10 years old driving tractors while harvesting hay and tobacco, working livestock and other farm tasks. This experience taught valuble lessons that have carried me into my career in agriculture. The Labor Department needs to step back. Is it any wonder that all industries are moving off-shore and we have the highest unemployment rate in decades?

Iowa  |  February, 02, 2012 at 09:11 AM

Don't our parents have any say in anything any more? If the parents should be the ones to say when the kids can work or not. I just don't get why our govt. thinks they have to regulate everything. This needs to be changed, and i am affraid that what it gets on the books, it is going to be hard to get it removed.

Palmer Holden    
Iowa City  |  February, 02, 2012 at 09:43 AM

Roberts has it right and Solis is wrong. So is Vilsack wrong for applauding Solis recovery from another government mandate. He should have just said it was a dumb idea. I grew up on a farm, handled livestock, ran farm equipment, etc. It taught responsibility and made us a part of the family business.

Robin P.    
February, 02, 2012 at 09:49 AM

This doesn't only affect Family Farms but young people learning good wholesome work ethics in Agriculture. Who will teach them to care for the land, responsibility, how to run machinery & equipment safely, care for livestock if we are restricted by legislation keeping us from hiring kids from town or neighboring farms? Some of these jobs lead to Ag College graduate's with scholarships from local agriculture businesses. Keep government out of who we can and cannot hire and be thankful that some of these young people actually DO want to work!

kansas  |  February, 02, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Nanny-Statists always know what's best for The Children komrades! And why would anyone reject the idea that nameles, faceless bureaucrats in D.C. should decide how you take care of your family? After all, look what a fine job they've done managing the lives of inner-city poor families. Kill this thing now. Then burn it and bury it.

Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  February, 02, 2012 at 12:08 PM

If they were really concerned with the safety of children they would not allow them to drive before they turn 18. How many are killed and injured due to car wrecks as opposed to those because of accidents working on the land. When I was growing up and sent out to the grandparents farm, I was in greater physical danger from my grandfather than from much of the work I was doing.

Andy Andreasen    
Florida  |  February, 05, 2012 at 03:51 PM

I was raised on a farm in the rural Florida Panhandle. I was hand milking cows at age 6. Driving cattle on horsebck by 7; driving tractors by age 10;working in the hay fields by age 13;managing,hiring and firing custom hay labor for a neighbor by age 17. I have never regretted hard work and gained the confidence and imagination to overcome any obstacle that comes along. These kinds opportunities & experiences teaches young people to be independent problem solvers and productive citizens for life.

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