Bill easing child labor laws headed to House floor

linda chaney (1)
'We are now in the worst economy in decades.'

Businesses could require high school-age minors to work longer hours and go longer without breaks under legislation headed to the House floor.

The bill (HB 49) sponsored by Rep. Linda Chaney, a St. Pete Beach Republican, passed through the House Commerce Committee by a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed. It was the last hurdle before going to a vote before the full chamber.

It applies to 16- and 17-year-olds and would allow employers to require them to work at 6 a.m. — 30 minutes earlier than current law — as well as more than eight hours on a school night; for more than six days in a week; and for more than four hours at a stretch without a break.

Chaney said high school teens need jobs to help families cope with a souring economy, despite an unemployment rate of 3% in Florida and 3.7% nationwide.

“We are now in the worst economy in decades,” Chaney said. “Our education is flexible now. We need to have our workforce flexible.”

Democrats and some teachers, though, spoke out against the measure, saying it pressures teens to work longer hours, sacrificing school performance.

Emily Grace, a Hillsborough County teacher, described one of her students as being unable to stay awake in class and having falling grades because of the long hours he works.

“If this is happening with our current laws, I don’t want to imagine the negative impact that this is going to have on him and other students if this bill is passed,” Grace said.

Democrats also noted there’s a waiver process in place for students to be able to work longer hours.

“There’s already a process in law, and if that is broken, let’s fix it,” said Rep. Dan Daley, a Coral Springs Democrat.

Chaney, though, noted the waiver is only for students who show economic hardship, and it is hard to get and rarely used.

The momentum for the bill in the House, however, hasn’t been matched in the Senate, where the companion bill (SB 1596) hasn’t received a hearing. Instead, the Senate has advanced a narrower bill (SB 460) to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work on residential construction sites with roofs and scaffolding under six feet. Much of the bill is geared toward expanding apprenticeship opportunities.

Still, the chambers have until March 8, the last day of the Regular Session, to reach an agreement on the bill.

Gray Rohrer


2 comments

  • KathrynA

    January 24, 2024 at 10:52 am

    Do we really want our children rested and ready to learn? Do we want them kept safe when they are at an age where they already make risky decisions. Let’s be the adults in the room and make good decisions for these minors. They soon will be 18 and adults.

  • soraya pierre

    January 26, 2024 at 12:24 pm

    i really like this law

Comments are closed.


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