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What Are Florida Labor Laws?
Florida labor laws cover a wide variety of employment issues, from banning discrimination in the workplace to outlawing several wage theft practices. Residents of the state should note that Florida labor laws sometimes overlap with the statutes enacted at the federal and municipal levels.
A Florida licensed employment attorney can help you make sense of Florida labor laws, as the statutes can change from one year to the next year. In addition to employment law changes, some Florida labor laws provide more protections than the protections granted under federal statutes. Conversely, some federal employment laws provide workers with more protections than the protections granted by Florida employment laws
Understanding the most influential employment laws in Florida can protect you against employer overreach. Many employers bank on their workers not understanding the employment rights granted to them under state law.
Discrimination in the Workplace
The Florida Civil Rights Act covers employers that have at least 15 employees. State law not only bans discrimination in the workplace but also during the job candidate application process.
Florida labor laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on the following factors:
- National origin
- Marital status
Florida employment law also prohibits employers from discriminating against workers that possess the sickle-cell trait or have acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Florida employment statutes forbid employers from discriminating in the workplace based on gender. This applies to compensation, as employers must pay all genders the same wage for jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibilities.
Different pay scales for the same job are allowed under the following four circumstances:
- Seniority system
- Merit system
- Any legally reasonable factor besides gender
- A system that rewards the quality and/or quantity of production
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) encourages workers that have not received compensation for the last pay period to contact the agency for the resolution of the wage theft issues.
In Florida, workers have four options for resolving a wage theft dispute with their employers.
- File a civil lawsuit to recover stolen wages
- File a civil lawsuit for an overtime or a minimum wage violation
- File a civil lawsuit to receive unpaid wages
- File a complaint in a county that has passed a wage theft law
As of 2021, the Florida minimum wage stood at $8.65 an hour. The Florida minimum wage act requires the state to adjust the minimum wage annually based on the rate of inflation. Tipped employees follow a different minimum wage rate of $5.63 per hour. Please note that the minimum wage rate for tipped employees climbs to $6.98 an hour starting on September 30, 2021.
Florida labor laws do not cover overtime, which means employers must follow the overtime laws passed by the United States Congress. Federal labor laws require employers to pay workers time and a half for every hour worked over 40 hours per workweek. A workweek is defined as a regular cycle of seven straight 24-hour days. Employers have the right to establish different workweeks for different categories of employees.
Florida prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for the following reasons:
- Revealed or threatened to reveal illegal practices conducted by an employer
- Testified and/or provided law enforcement with information pertaining to a criminal investigation against an employer
- Refused to participate in an employer-sanctioned illegal activity
Florida employers can compensate employers in one or more of the following ways:
- Direct Deposit
- Payroll debit card
An employer operating in Florida can deduct expenses from a worker’s wages if the employer received a writ of garnishment from the state or received a notice of an income withholding order.
Florida labor laws allow employers to conduct drug and alcohol tests as a condition of employment. Before conducting a drug test, an employer must provide every job candidate with a written notice that describes the employer’s drug testing policy that includes the procedure for testing. Employers must explain to job candidates how long before a drug test they will be notified of the time and date of the drug test.
Leaves of Absence
Florida has enacted several laws that grant workers for certain reasons.
- Jury duty
- Domestic violent
- Civil Air Patrol
Smoking in the Workplace
The state’s Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in nearly every indoor workplace. State law bans smoking in workspaces that are occupied by one or more employees.
Weapons at Work
According to Florida statutes, employers can not limit or prevent workers from legally storing a privately owned firearm in a motor vehicle. Employers cannot ask employees whether they are storing a firearm inside of a motor vehicle while the vehicle sits in the employer’s parking lot. Florida labor laws forbid employers from searching a motor vehicle for firearms, as well as preventing an employee from entering an employer’s parking lot because the worker is carrying a visible firearm in the vehicle.
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Should I File a Lawsuit Against My Employer?
If your employer has treated you poorly, your reaction might be to make your employer pay for violating one or more Florida employment statutes. However, you should first speak with an experienced employment law attorney to decide whether you should file a civil lawsuit against your employer.
Your lawyer might decide that negotiating a settlement out of court represents the most effective legal strategy. Litigation can be time-consuming, as well as emotionally draining. In some cases, employers refuse to come to the negotiating table, which leaves a lawyer with no other option than to file a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages.
What is the Meaning of Protected Traits?
When referring to discrimination statutes, many states use the term “protected classes” that include age, gender, and national origin. Florida discrimination in the workplace laws use the term “protected traits.” Typically, if an employer in the Sunshine State makes a labor decision based on a protected trait, the employer has violated discrimination in the workplace law.
What Does It Mean to Be Sexually Harassed at Work?
This is one of the most frequently asked employment law questions by our Florida clients. The best answer is if you feel uncomfortable when a boss or co-worker is around you at work and outside of work, you should contact an employment law attorney to determine how to proceed.
Although your employer should explain its sexual harassment policy in the employee handbook, the fact remains that some employers do not provide the same protections against sexual harassment that are required by state law.
Keep in mind that there are two broad categories of sexual harassment.
- Quid quo pro-Employer makes an employment decision based on how you respond to sexual advances
- Hostile work environment-Revealing photos, overly physical interactions, and explicitly crude jokes in the workplace
You should never accept sexual harassment because you fear losing your job. Florida whistleblower protection statutes protect you against any backlash from your employer.
What is the Process for Filing a Complaint Against My Employer for Sexual Harassment?
If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you might be tempted to act with a sense of urgency and lash back at your employer for committing or condoning the acts of sexual harassment. According to Florida labor laws, you must follow a few steps that might stop the harassing behavior before you decide to file a civil lawsuit.
First, speak with the worker who is harassing you. If there is more than one harasser, take the time required to speak with each co-worker. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with one or more harassers, then speak with a human resources manager to stop the unlawful behavior. You should refer to your employee handbook to determine the process your employer has established for handling sexual harassment complaints.
If your employer does not have a sexual harassment policy in place or refuses to address your concerns, then the time has come to contact a state-licensed employment law attorney.
Should I Negotiate Without a Lawyer Present?
The short answer to this question is an emphatic no.
Employment law attorneys are much more than persuasive litigators. Many of their cases never see the light of a courtroom because they are skilled negotiators that get the best deals for their clients. Going it alone during negotiations with your employer means you probably end up negotiating with an attorney who works for your employer. An employment law attorney can negotiate a severance package, get you just compensation for your pain and suffering, and ensure your employer never commits another violation of Florida labor laws.
How Should I Handle Getting Written Up at Work?
Even the best workers make mistakes.
Many employers have established a disciplinary process that starts with a verbal warning. The next step is a write-up that documents the incident that prompted your employer to invoke this step in the disciplinary process. Most employers allow for three write-ups before more forceful discipline is implemented.
Follow these rules when you receive a write-up at work to prevent escalating the situation:
- Stay professional
- Read the write-up
- Review the supporting paperwork
- Sign the write-up
Contact an attorney after receiving a write-up only if you believe your employer has violated one or more Florida labor laws.
Contact a Florida-Licensed Employment Law Attorney
Most employers do not go out of their way to educate their workers about their rights in the workplace. If you think your employer has violated one or more Florida labor laws, contact Morgan & Morgan to schedule a free initial consultation.