The legal rights of employees in the state of Florida are established and protected by state and federal law. If you are someone’s employee in Florida and you received an employee handbook from your employer, that handbook may in effect be a legal document that establishes additional employee rights.
Whether someone is alleging a wrongful termination, challenging sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, or claiming a failure to pay full legal wages, every employee in Florida has rights that may be enforced by law.
If you are the legal employee of a Florida employer, you should understand your employee rights, and you should know a little something about the laws that establish and protect those rights.
In a general sense, the law prohibits discrimination, requires employers to pay legal minimum wages and overtime wages, and gives qualified workers the right to take leave in some circumstances.
In most cases, volunteers and independent contractors in Florida do not enjoy most employment rights because they are not “employees” as defined by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
In cases where an individual otherwise presumed to be a contractor asserts legal employee status, a court will examine the employer-worker relationship to decide if the worker should be considered a contractor or an employee.
This is a general introduction to employee rights in Florida, but if you have concerns regarding a specific employer, or if you believe that a Florida employer is violating your own employee rights – or the employment rights of a family member – you’ll want to obtain sound, specific legal advice pertinent to your own case by consulting a skilled Tampa employment rights attorney.
Here’s a brief look at some of the laws and issues that impact your employment rights in the state of Florida:
WHAT ARE THE WAGE AND HOUR LAWS IN OUR STATE?
Both Florida law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act establish the minimum wage, the overtime wage, and a number of related wage-and-hour rules. Beginning in 2017, the minimum wage in Florida is $8.10 an hour, and that’s what employees in Florida are entitled to.
In states such as Florida that establish a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage – which is $7.25 an hour – employers must pay the higher wage that the state establishes.
In most cases, employers in Florida must pay employees time-and-a-half for any hours worked beyond the first 40 work hours in a week.
Not all Florida employees are entitled to overtime pay – some categories of employees are exempted. Commissioned salespersons and salaried professionals are in most cases exempt, and employment contracts sometimes create an exemption.
WHAT ARE FLORIDA’S HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION LAWS?
Florida employers may not discriminate against job candidates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, gender, orientation, age, disability, or pregnancy. These are “protected categories” under federal law.
State law in Florida additionally forbids discrimination based on marital status. Background checks are also legally regulated. Employers may not discriminate at any point during the employer-employee relationship.
Decisions about hiring, raises, promotions, assignments, time off, benefits, discipline, and termination cannot be made on a discriminatory basis. Compliance is mandatory for Florida employers with fifteen or more employees.
Legally speaking, harassment on the job is another type of employment discrimination.
The law defines harassment as unwelcome words and/or behaviors that create a hostile or offensive work environment, or words and/or behaviors that the harassment victim must tolerate as a condition of employment.
Sexual harassment gets the most publicity, but harassment based on race, age, and other protected category traits is far too common and is equally unacceptable and illegal.
In Florida, whether you work in the public or private sector, if you report or testify regarding workplace discrimination or harassment – or any other illegal activity at your workplace – you are legally protected from employer retaliation.
An employer may not discipline, terminate, or otherwise, take retaliatory action against an employee for making a report (to a supervisor or to a law enforcement or government regulatory agency), testifying, or filing a lawsuit.
WHAT ARE AN EMPLOYEE’S TIME OFF AND LEAVE RIGHTS?
Some states require employers to offer paid or partially-paid days off or leave time. Federal law and the state of Florida do not require employers to provide paid leave, but in some circumstances, employers are obligated to provide legally-required unpaid leave.
Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, employees who satisfy these three requirements may be legally entitled to up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave according to our employment discrimination lawyers:
- The employer has fifty or more employees in a 75-mile radius.
- You have worked for the employer for at least twelve months, and you’ve worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours in the twelve months immediately prior to taking the leave.
- You suffer from a serious health condition, or you must care for a family member suffering from a serious medical condition, or you can’t work due to a pregnancy or a childbirth-related condition, or you have a new child in your family.
Under a law that went into effect in 2007, the state of Florida requires employers with fifty or more employees to provide those employees with up to three unpaid days off per year to deal with issues related to acts of domestic violence against themselves or their family members.
The time may be used to obtain medical care, to seek legal or financial help, or to relocate, for example.
Employees also have the legal right to take time off for jury duty, and Florida employers are required by state law and by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to give employees leave for federal or state military service.
WHAT SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS ARE REQUIRED?
Employers must provide a safe, healthy working environment and offer appropriate safety training. Employees have the right to a safe workplace, free of any known, identifiable dangers.
If your employer in Florida is not in compliance with OSHA safety regulations, or if you’ve suffered an injury due to an employer’s non-compliance or negligence, consider discussing your legal rights and options with an experienced Tampa employment rights attorney
Most employers in Florida are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and in most cases, Florida employees who are injured while working will qualify to receive workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ compensation provides a percentage of an injured employee’s regular earnings, pays for medical care, and may provide for job re-training and other benefits when necessary.
In most cases, an employer can only be held liable for a workplace-related injury if the employer caused the injury through egregious negligence or malicious intent.
However, third parties can sometimes be assigned liability or partial liability for workplace injuries, particularly if those third parties have manufactured defective tools, chemicals, or equipment that caused or contributed to the injury.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS WHEN YOU SEPARATE FROM YOUR EMPLOYER?
Florida employees typically work “at will,” and unless they are contractually obligated, they can resign or be terminated at any time and for any reason that is not illegal.
Employees who are laid off (meaning they did not quit and were not fired for misconduct or poor performance) may qualify to receive unemployment benefits.
Workers who qualify receive those benefits for a minimum of twelve weeks provided that they are actively seeking employment.
The vast majority of employees in the state of Florida enjoy considerable employee rights. The vast majority of employers in Florida strive diligently to comply with federal and state employment laws.
However, employees who face workplace discrimination or any other violation of their employee rights should know that the law is on their side and that Florida courts are quite serious about enforcing employee rights. For more information, speak to our employment discrimination lawyers.