HomeFlorida NewsFlorida Republican’s bill proposes allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to work full-time hours...

Florida Republican’s bill proposes allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to work full-time hours instead of focusing on school


Florida – Republicans in the Florida House of Representatives are pushing a bill that could radically alter child labor laws in the state. The proposed bill, H.B. 49, introduced by Republican Rep. Linda Chaney, is stirring a heated debate over its potential impact on the well-being and education of minors.

Major Shifts in Child Labor Regulations

The bill aims to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work full-time hours, all while school is in session. This marks a dramatic shift from the current laws that restrict minors to part-time work while attending school. The bill also proposes relaxing restrictions on the types of work and workplaces permitted for minors.

Republican Rep. Kevin Steele expressed strong support for the bill, suggesting that current restrictions on child labor have contributed to weakening society. He said “We’ve been weakening our society since before my time. You know, I started working at, like, 13 years old, a full-time job. I wrestled. I played every sport you can imagine. So the idea that they can’t afford to have these kids do this is an anomaly for me in my mind. If there’s an issue with inflation, we should address that with with the federal government, not not the state of Florida. So I appreciate you running this bill. You guys continue doing the great work and help change your youth, the youth, out there to have them start working full-time.”

Opposition from Policy Analysts

However, the bill has faced staunch opposition from various quarters, including the Florida Policy Institute. Sadaf Knight, the CEO of the institute, criticized the move, emphasizing the need for enhanced worker protections, particularly for minors. The institute’s research shows a troubling increase in child labor law violations in Florida, predominantly in the service, retail, and construction sectors. Knight pointed out that Florida already has waivers for teens wanting to work more hours, questioning the bill’s necessity.

Key Changes Proposed by the Bill

As of January 17, H.B. 49 suggests several significant alterations to the existing child labor laws:

  • Allows minors 16 and 17 years old to be scheduled to work at 6 a.m., rather than the current 6:30 a.m.
  • Removes the restriction on 16 and 17-year-old children working more than 8 hours on a day before a school day
  • Removes the restriction on 16 and 17-year-old children working more than 30 in a week while school is in session
  • Removes the restriction on working during school hours for home-school students, virtually schooled students, or high school dropouts.
  • Allows employers to schedule children 16 and older to more than 6 consecutive days in a week
  • Requires 16 and 17-year-olds to receive the same breaks and meal periods as adult workers
  • Removes even those restrictions for the following children 16 and 17 years old:
    • Minors with a high school or equivalent diploma
    • Domestic workers
    • Florida Legislative pages
    • Children employed by parents
    • Children granted waivers or exemptions for hardship or emergency

Additionally, the bill modifies language in the law, replacing “shall” with “may” in certain provisions, potentially creating ambiguity in legal interpretations. The original version of the bill, which removed all hour restrictions for 16- and 17-year-olds, underwent amendments to reinstate some limits, such as the 6 a.m. start time.

A Critical Juncture for Florida’s Youth

This legislative proposal stands at a critical juncture, as it could significantly impact the lives and futures of young Floridians. Proponents view it as a step towards economic empowerment and independence for youths, while critics see it as a detrimental move that could compromise educational outcomes and expose minors to exploitation and hazardous working conditions. As the bill moves through the subcommittees in the Legislature, its progress will be closely monitored by both its supporters and detractors, each advocating for their vision of Florida’s youth and their role in the workforce.

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