Florida eyes controversial pro-employer legislation

In another example of state-level efforts to limit workplace obligations, the state is looking to prohibit local jurisdictions from requiring heat protections and predictive scheduling.
Gov. DeSantis has yet to say whether he'll block local heat restrictions and scheduling requirements. | Photo: Shutterstock

A Florida bill awaiting a signature from Gov. Ron DeSantis would prohibit cities and counties in the state from adopting measures for protecting restaurant employees and other workers from excessive heat while on the job.

A provision also blocks the local jurisdictions from enacting what’s known as predictive scheduling legislation, or requirements that restaurants and other employers set shift schedules significantly in advance and pay a penalty if they make subsequent changes.

If the governor should sign the bill, employers would only be subject to the requirements set on both fronts by state or federal law. In the instance of heat protections, virtually none currently exist at either level.

The legislature balked at passing another piece of pro-employer legislation, a bill that would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to work more than 40 hours a week. Proponents argued that the measure would shift the say-so on how many hours a youngster can work to their parents, instead of having lawmakers and employers decide.

Although the measure was passed by the state House of Representatives, the Senate rejected the provision, along with the elimination of a requirement that the youngsters be given a break during shifts that run at least eight hours.

The Senate approved an amendment that prohibits the teens from working more than 30 hours per week unless they have a parent’s permission. It also mandates work breaks.

The House approved the revised bill, HB 49. It, too, is currently on DeSantis’ desk. The governor has not indicated what he intends to do with both that legislation and the heat protections bill, HB 433. But he has been a strong advocate of state laws pre-empting local legislation.

The situation in Florida is an example of the efforts underway in a number of states to ease local businesses’ employment challenges by loosening longstanding restrictions on how much and when teenagers can work. 

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill that would have permitted restaurants and other employers to hire 14- and 15-year-olds without requiring the work permits that indicate the youngsters have their parents’ permission to take a job.

“This bill is wrong for our kids and wrong for our state,” Evers told a union group in disclosing his decision to veto SB 436. 

He acknowledged the difficulties many employers face in securing a workforce in a state where the unemployment rate has fallen to 2.4%, as compared to a national rate of 3.8%. But he advocated other ways of expanding the labor pool, such as adopting a new state apprenticeship program.

In announcing his veto, he cited a need to maintain protections for teenaged workers, noting a finding by the U.S. Department of Labor that the number of minors working illegally nationwide rose 105% between 2021 and 2023.

Florida’s proposed ban on local heat-protection regulations comes as many jurisdictions are eyeing stronger protections for workers from triple-digit temperatures, particularly for employees who labor outdoors. Indeed, Miami-Dade County, one of the state’s most populous jurisdictions, is currently considering several safety mandates for employers.

The limitation would limit local jurisdictions largely to the heat-protection guidelines that the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has issued as temperatures have climbed in recent summers. The common-sense measures, such as providing access to water and shade and teaching all employees the symptoms of heat exhaustion, are recommendations rather than requirements.

Ironically, OSHA recommends that heat protections be strengthened through state action. Three states—California, Minnesota and Washington—have laws that could serve as models for other locales, according to the agency.

It cites in particular the standards that have been set and recently updated by California. When the temperature of an indoor workplace hits 82 degrees, employers there are required to provide their employees water, cool-down areas and a chance to gradually acclimatize their bodies to the heat.

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