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Arkansas Removes Outdated Policy, Makes It Easier for Teens to Work

If a teenager wants to save money for a car or college, or wants to add to their resume before pursuing a long-term career, they should have that opportunity. It’s a rite of passage for many Americans. And students and their parents, not regulators or school administrators, should be deciding whether it’s a good idea for them to have a job. 

Yet, states across the country have stringent requirements that require teenagers to “ask permission” from a third party before they can accept any employment. Michigan is so strict that students must get permission before they can even accept volunteer opportunities, and any time they change jobs they must obtain a new permit from their school. Teenagers under 18 who already graduated high school in Ohio must get permission from either their college or the school district where their employer is located. 

Youth work permits are not required by federal law, and the Fair Labor Standards Act maintains basic safety standards across the country when it comes to minors being employed—meaning removing this permit wouldn’t be sending little kids to sweatshops or down in the mine

This permitting requirement is entirely state created, and it puts regulators and administrators into conversations and decisions that should be between parents and their children. At best, it’s annoying red tape that involves unnecessary third parties in family discussions. At worst it’s classist, because for some low-income families, it could prevent a teenager from bringing much-needed money home because government thinks it knows best. 

Fortunately, pro-work states are starting to remove this unnecessary barrier to work. Arkansas is the most recent, with Rep. Rebecca Burkes (AR-11) and Sen. Clint Penzo (AR-31)’s HB 1410—now Act 195Act 195 removes the outdated requirement that Arkansas youth must get permission from the state to be employable.

With more than 11 million open jobs and businesses across the country desperate for workers, states should do everything they can to encourage those who can work to do so—especially eager young people who want some experience. States that delay the hiring process for teenage workers with youth work permits may be unintentionally cutting off a critical source of their workforce.

Good on Arkansas for joining the growing number of states that are preserving decision-making rights for students and their parents and are removing barriers for those who want to work. 

At FGA, we don’t just talk about changing policy—we make it happen.

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