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Minors employment bill opens job opportunities

By Staff | Feb 2, 2024

Proposed state legislation, HB 49/SB1596: Employment and Curfew of Minors, is getting hammered by a number of organizations statewide.

The bill, co-introduced in the House by Lee County Delegation members Mike Giallombardo and Spencer Roach in the House and, in the Senate, by Sen. Danny Burgess, R- District 23, would “significantly roll back critical labor protections” by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to work more hours, its critics say.

According to the most recent House bill analysis, what the legislation would do is:

• Remove restrictions concerning the number of work hours per day and per week for minors 16 and 17 years-of-age, and specify that minors 16 and 17 years-of-age may work the same number of hours as a person who is 18 years-of-age or older.

• Revises the times of day in which minors 16 and 17 years-of-age may work.

• Limits the restriction that currently prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds from working more than six consecutive days in any one week, or working four hours continuously without a break of at least 30 minutes for a meal period to only apply to minors age 15 or younger.

• Requires 16- and 17-year-olds to be granted breaks and meal periods in the same manner as employees who are 18- years-of-age or older.

• Requires juvenile curfews adopted by county or municipal ordinance to include certain exceptions.

We’ve been the recipients of a number of position statements in opposition and we do share some of the concerns as we agree: 16- and 17-year olds are not adults and “allowing” them to work the same hours as those 18 and older seems disconcerting on first blush.

But what the organizational opposition is not providing is context for the proposed legislation which, in essence, would align state law with federal labor regulations related to hours worked for the age group in question.

What the organizational opposition also is not providing is a concerted wave of action demanding more restrictive employment laws for minors on the federal level, something that would require the “protections” they tout to be implemented nationwide.

A couple of things.

We reached out to the offices of Rep. Giallombardo, R-77, whose district encompasses Cape Coral, and Rep. Roach, R-79 whose district includes North Fort Myers, as to why they sponsored the legislation.

The simple answer is it is intended to mirror federal regulations and keeps intact protections pertaining to minors as they relate to occupations and duties defined as hazardous.

It also recognizes that not all 16- and 17-year-olds, much as we may want, fit into the traditional ideal of a college-bound track.

For some, the ability — the opportunity– to get a job and acquire what Rep. Roach calls “soft skills” to build a better future is not a bad thing.

We have no issue with the proposed legislation in its current form.

It doesn’t seem overreaching and we must find ways to expand the size of the workforce to support both business growth and the employability of those looking to join that workforce.

This legislation could help accomplish both.

–Breeze editorial