Florida Lawmakers Considering Removing Child Labor Protections
Most white collar businesses tend to employ those over a certain age, simply because the work being done requires years of experience. Those under the age of 18 are children, and while children may work in certain limited capacities, the general rule is that education is a child’s first job. However, in recent months, several U.S. state legislatures have seen fit to roll back – or discuss rolling back – standards protecting young workers. As a business owner it is crucial to be aware of the state of legal protections for all your employees.
More Power In Hands Of Employers
The proposed bill before the Florida legislature, HB 49, would make sweeping changes to the protections governing children who work. Currently, workers aged 16-17 cannot work more than 8 hours on school nights and/or more than 30 hours per week during the school year (a schedule which can still be profoundly damaging to a child’s well-being). HB 49 would remove all current guidelines with regard to employing minors, allowing employers to essentially force their work to take precedence over education.
There are several potential theories on why Florida is seeking to relax rules about employing minors, all of which are plausible. The state lost a significant number of employees during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, to either death or disability. In addition, the state has passed some of the strictest anti-immigrant regulations in the United States, which has led many undocumented workers who would normally have been able to pick up some of that slack to simply avoid the state. Florida employers need bodies – but in many cases, seeking to employ minors is simply not a tenable option.
Federal Rules Are Stricter
As of this writing, HB 49 is merely a bill, without a companion bill filed in the Senate or hearings scheduled. However, there is support for this initiative among Florida business interests; “restaurant and lodging organizations,” as well as non-profit groups involved in business advocacy, have contributed toward its passage. If it passes, it may in theory give flexibility to business owners, but may also create pitfalls, simply because federal child labor laws are much more stringent than Florida’s will become.
Data from the Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, as reported by National Public Radio (NPR), shows that before 2015, child labor law violations were decreasing, but after that year, they began to drastically increase – in 2022, roughly 3,900 minors were found employed in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is roughly triple the amount from 2015. The fines and penalties for employing minors in violation of federal law are strict – regardless of the potential changes to state law, federal regulations will apply.
Contact A Florida Business Law Attorney
While the ultimate fate of HB 49 is still up in the air, it is crucial as a business owner to be aware of the rules that may apply to any or all of their employees. A Florida business law attorney from the Hunt Law Group may be able to help answer your questions about the current state of affairs. Contact our office today at (727) 471-0444 to schedule a consultation.