Florida Employment Law FAQ
You are probably here because you or someone you know has or may have been treated unfairly at work. While illegal, things like discrimination, wage theft, and wrongful termination occur regularly in Florida and throughout the United States. In such cases, you can take legal action against your employer and fight for them to change their ways as well as to receive monetary compensation to make up for their actions against you. Yet, doing so can be much more difficult in practice compared to how it sounds on paper.
At Sconzo Law Office, P.A., we represent clients throughout West Palm Beach and the surrounding areas who have experienced unfair treatment at work. We get a lot of questions about employment law and have compiled the most common here.
Q: What is at-will employment and is Florida an at-will state?
A: At-will refers to the employment arrangement in which an employer may fire an employee for any reason at any time, as long as the basis for firing is not discriminatory, retaliatory, or otherwise illegal in nature. Florida, like many states, is an-will state. In other words, employers in Florida can essentially fire an employee for any reason, including no reason at all, with some exceptions.
Q: What is a protected class & how does it factor into workplace treatment?
A: Race, skin color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, citizenship status, genetic information, marital status, HIV/AIDS diagnosis, or presence of sickle cell trait are all protected classes under Florida employment laws. It is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you on the basis of any of these classes.
Check out our Discrimination pages or the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity’s website for more information at https://discover.pbcgov.org/equalopportunity/Pages/Equal-Employment.aspx
Q: My employer did not pay me for the hours I worked, what can I do?
A: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mainly governs issues regarding employee wages and overtime hours.
You also have the right to earn a certain “minimum wage” for regular hours that you work. The federal minimum wage is $8.65 per hour; and as of January 1, 2021, the minimum wage in Florida is $8.65 per hour. Thus, currently an employee in Florida covered by the minimum wage laws must be paid a minimum of $8.65 per hour worked. That said, the minimum wage is set to rise in Florida by $1.00 a year from 2021 to 2026, capping at $15.00 an hour.
If you are a tipped employee, such as a waiter or waitress, you too are entitled to a minimum wage. However, because the tips you receive form a part of your wages, the minimum wage to which you are entitled is less. Tipped employee currently must earn $5.63 per hour plus tips. This to set to rise $1.00 a year from 2021 to 2026, capping at $11.98 per hour plus tips.
There are exceptions to the minimum wage requirements, so it is best to consult with an experienced employment law attorney to learn your exact rights.
As an additional resource, check out the U.S. Wage and Hour Divisions Basic Information regarding the Fair Labor Standard Act at https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whd_fs.pdf
Q: My employer failed to pay me overtime, what can I do?
A: FLSA Overtime laws are designed to prevent an employer from taking advantage of an employee during the workweek by requiring the employee to work excessive hours without fair compensation. Under the FLSA, if an employee considered to be “covered” works more than 40 hours in a given workweek, he or she must be compensated at a rate of at least one and one-half times his or her regular hourly rate for each hour worked in excess of 40.
As an example, if a covered employee works a total of 55 hours, she is entitled to receive, at a minimum, her regular rate of pay for the first 40 hours and one and one-half times her regular rate of pay for the remaining 15 hours.
There are exceptions to the overtime requirements, so it is best to consult with an experienced employment law attorney to learn your exact rights.
As an additional resource, check out the U.S. Wage and Hour Divisions Fact Sheet on Overtime Pay Requirements at https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs23.pdf
Q: So when can I challenge my termination?
A: Florida’s at-will status does not mean that no terminations can be challenged. There are multiple situations in which you still can challenge your termination. These include:
1. Did you have an employment contract or agreement that created a term of employment and rights upon termination?
If so, you are likely not an at-will employee and your contract rights will control what your employer was obligated to do upon your termination. As such, it is strongly recommended that you have a qualified attorney review your employment or agreement.
2. Do you believe you were discriminated against as a result of being a member of a protected class?
If so, federal laws, including Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state laws including the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), and local city ordinances provide protection against such conduct. You should contact a qualified attorney to discuss whether the factual allegations rise to the level of discrimination under these laws.
3. Do you believe you were retaliated against for reporting discriminatory or illegal conduct?
If you reported discriminatory or illegal conduct to a supervisor or human resources and believe that in response for doing so you were terminated, then you may have a claim for retaliation in violation of the Florida Private Whistleblower’s Act, the Florida Public Whistleblower’s Act, or the discrimination laws referenced above. If you believe you were retaliated against you should act promptly to contact an attorney so as to ensure your right to act is protected.
Q: Am I entitled to Medical Leave if I get sick or injured?
A: The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with certain protections if the employee must temporarily leave his or her job because of certain health-related issues, including child birth, a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform your job, or caring for your spouse, child or parent when any of them have a serious health condition. Under the FMLA, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from your workplace for certain health-related situations. During this time, your job is protected and health insurance benefits must generally continue. As an additional resource, check out the U.S. Wage and Hour Divisions Fact Sheet on the Family Medical Leave Act at https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs28.pdf
If you feel you have been wrongly denied FMLA leave or terminated in retaliation for taking such leave, it is best to contact an experienced employment law attorney to learn your exact rights.
Q: What is the statute of limitations for bringing an employment lawsuit in the state of Florida?
A: The statute of limitations varies depending on what type of employment lawsuit has been filed (wrongful termination, discrimination, etc.) and whether it is being brought under federal or state law. For discrimination claims, you have between 180 days and one year to file a claim, depending on whether you file under federal or state law. For other claims, such as breach of contract, wage and hour claims, FMLA Retaliation, Workers’ Compensation Retaliation, there is a longer statute of limitations. For whistle-blower claims, depending on whether the claim is private or public, you may have to file a claim in as little as 90 days. Because of these varying statutes of limitation, we highly recommend contacting a attorney as soon as possible to ensure you are within the deadline. The sooner you file a claim, the easier it will be to investigate and collect evidence as well.
Q: Is my employer required to accommodate my disability?
A: Yes. However, if the accommodation would lead to “undue hardship” employers may not be required to do so. This means that if they would have to significantly alter the workplace or pay a large sum of money to accommodate, it may not required. Otherwise, accommodations deemed “reasonable” are a must. If your employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations, they are breaking the law.
Q: What should I do if I suspect my employer is engaging in illegal activity?
A:You can file a whistleblower claim to expose illegal employer conduct. Booth federal and state laws protect whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors, but it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney before filing a claim to ensure that your rights are protected.
Q: Can I be fired for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination or filing a complaint?
A: It is illegal for an employer to fire workers for reporting workplace harassment or discrimination. This is known as retaliation, and it is prohibited by both federal and Florida law.
Q: Do you offer free consultations?
A: Yes. Simply call our office to schedule yours today.
Q: How much will it cost to hire Sconzo Law Office to represent me?
A: Most of the time we take employment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that our fee is a percentage of the recovery we are able to obtain for you. If no recovery is made, no fee is owed. We also lay out any expenses associated with the lawsuit and are only reimbursed if we are able to obtain a recovery on your behalf. We believe strongly in this form of representation as we understand that many of our clients have lost their jobs or otherwise have suffered an adverse action at work, and paying an attorney an upfront retainer would only add to your troubles.