EPI Director of Policy Heidi Shierholz submitted comments to the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) opposing a new proposal that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to independently operate power-driven patient lifts.
To assess whether this proposal would, as the DOL claims, increase employment opportunities of 16- and 17-year-olds, Shierholz examined whether the recent policy change that the DOL is proposing to reverse has actually decreased employment opportunities for 16- and 17-year-olds since its implementation in 2011. Before 2010, 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to independently use power-driven patient lifts to transport patients and residents in medical settings such as nursing care facilities. In 2010/2011, however, the DOL expanded a worker safety provision and prohibited 16- and 17-year-olds from independently operating power-driven patient lifts.
Looking at the data on teen employment in nursing homes in the context of larger teen employment trends, Shierholz finds that the employment of 16- and 17-year-olds in nursing care facilities was actually higher than would have been expected once the current policy was implemented.
“Since there is no empirical evidence that the current policy has hurt 16- and 17-year-old workers, there is also no evidence that the proposed rule would improve the employment opportunities for 16- and 17-year-olds, “ said Shierholz. “We urge the DOL to abandon this rulemaking and focus on policies that will ensure safe work environments in which young people can earn decent wages and acquire work experience.”