The Iowa House and Senate are moving forward with laws that crack down on employers for violation the state child labor rules. It’s a reaction to allegations that the owners of the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville used underage workers. The plant was raided last spring by federal immigration officials.
Legislation in the Senate would increase the penalty for employing children. Senator Pat Ward, a republican from West Des Moines, didn’t initially support the bill as she says it didn’t protect employers who’re lied to. "And I believe that’s too harsh. I in no way support child labor but I believed that was too onerous on the employer and wouldn’t have allowed the employer to go to court and have any kind of defense, Ward says.
Ward says employers who tried to do the right thing could still have been subject to the penalty. Ward says, "Even if they checked on their ID’s and did reasonable and prudent research to determine they were 18 years old if that’s what was required for the job, this bill would have said they were guilty for working their and the employer would have had no defense on that."
Ward says the Senate has now agreed to accept the House version of the bill which stipulates that only truly negligent employers will be charged — a move that makes it more acceptable to her. Under the bill, an employer would face a one-year jail sentence and 18-hundred dollar fine for knowingly hiring an underage worker.