Florida House passes bill weakening child labor laws and rejects sexual harassment amendment

Tallahassee, Florida - The Florida House on Thursday passed a bill severely weakening child labor laws and allowing some teens to work more than 40 hours per week during the school year.

The Florida state House voted 80-35 in favor of a bill that would severely weaken child labor protections.
The Florida state House voted 80-35 in favor of a bill that would severely weaken child labor protections.  © JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Florida's HB 49, pertaining to the Employment and Curfew of Minors, passed out of the Republican-controlled House in an 80-35 vote.

The legislation would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to work more than 40 hours a week, including more than eight hours a day between 6 AM and 11 PM, and homeschooled teens to work during the school day. Counties and municipalities would be barred from instating curfews that would conflict with the bill's provisions.

Other workplace protections for teens, including mandatory breaks and measures against sexual harassment, are also in question.

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The bill states: "Minors 16 or 17 years of age must be granted breaks and meal periods in the same manner as similarly permitted for employees who are 18 years of age or older."

Republican representative prioritizes "need of the business"

Democrats countered that adults are not guaranteed breaks. An amendment to require teens to get a break every five hours failed, as did the nine other amendments proposed by Democrats.

The bill's GOP sponsor, state Representative Linda Chaney, argued that guaranteed breaks were not necessary, claiming that business owners are already incentivized to keep their teen employees satisfied.

"It's a very difficult market right now, and as a small business owner, we bend over backwards to keep our employees happy," Chaney said during floor debate.

"16 and 17-year-olds are very connected to each other," she went on. "If they're working someplace and they're not happy with something, they'll ghost us at lunchtime. So, the employers are taking care of their employees for the benefit not only of the employee, but for the need of the business."

Florida is part of nationwide GOP push to weaken child labor protections

Florida state Representative Linda Chaney is the primary sponsor of HB 49.
Florida state Representative Linda Chaney is the primary sponsor of HB 49.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Another rejected amendment called for maintaining workplace sexual harassment records and making them available to parents upon hiring.

The failure to protect kids has received strong backlash from Floridians across the state, and fits within a wider GOP push to weaken child labor laws – with Arkansas, Iowa, New Hampshire, and New Jersey already passing measures of their own.

More Perfect Union reported that Chaney's bill mimics nearly word for word a draft text provided by the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability think tank, heavily financed by billionaire GOP mega donor Dick Uihlein.

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According to the Economic Policy Institute, at least 16 states have introduced similar legislation thus far.

Florida's HB 49 now heads to the Republican-led state Senate, where it must pass before it can be signed into law by far-right Governor Ron DeSantis.

Cover photo: JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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