Florida Republican files bill to allow minors to work full-time and overnight

LGBTQ rights supporters protest against Florida Governor Ron Desantis outside a "Don't Tread on Florida" tour campaign event.

Florida has reportedly introduced a bill that would remove certain restrictions on people under the age of 18 working, including possibly forcing them to work longer hours. 

Civil rights attorney Alejandra Caraballo said the new bill, filed on Monday (18 September), would mean people aged 16 and 17 would be allowed to work longer hours and overnight. 

The bill, which has not yet been passed or advanced, would remove part of state law that says 16 and 17 year olds can’t work before 6.30am or after 11pm, or for more than eight hours when school is scheduled the next day.

“Minors 16 and 17 years of age may be employed, permitted, or suffered to work the same number of hours as a person who is 18 years of age or older,” the bill reads. 

Criticising the bill while the state’s Don’t Say Gay law restricts LGBTQ+ education in schools, Caraballo said: “Florida just introduced a bill to gut child labour laws and allow minors to work full time and overnight. 

“In DeSantis’ Florida, teens can work hazardous jobs full time but it’s illegal to teach them that LGBTQ+ people exist. It’s not about protecting children.”

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She added: “Old enough to work the phosphate mines, not old enough to use different pronouns.”

The bill, HB49, was filed by House Republican Linda Chaney, and if passed after going through the state legislative procedure, will come into force on 1 July 2024.

The proposed bill is part of a nationwide trend aimed at weakening child labour protection laws.

A Guardian article in May revealed that 10 states across America had either proposed or passed legislation to roll back such protections in the past two years.

The newspaper reported that the number of children employed in violation of child labour laws has increased by 37 per cent in the past year, and by 283 per cent since 2015.

Meanwhile, as Caraballo pointed out, Florida has clamped down on teenagers and young people learning about LGBTQ+ issues or receiving gender-affirming care.

“Trans teens in Florida can’t access gender-affirming care endorsed by every major medical organisation, but they’ll be able to work the phosphate mines and suffer significantly elevated risks of lung cancer and leukemia,” she wrote

The state of Florida has now passed so many anti-LGBTQ+ laws that a human rights charity warned LGBTQ+ people not to visit the Sunshine State.

Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson claimed: “Since the day he took office, governor [Ron] DeSantis has weaponised his position to weave bigotry, hate and discrimination into public law for his own political gain.”