Florida is classified as an at-will employment state. This means that employers are generally entitled to discharge employees for any reason or no reason at all. However, there are federal and state laws that protect employees or job applicants from being discriminated against. These laws also protect employees from retaliation by employers.
There are several federal laws that provide employees with protection from employer discrimination. These are also enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).These laws include:
- Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against an employee because of the employee’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): The ADA not only prohibits discrimination against an individual based on their disability, but also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that are necessary to allow them to carry out their job.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or child birth.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963: The Equal Pay Act requires men and women to be paid equal wages if they perform the same type of work for the same employer.
In addition to the federal laws, Florida has enacted its own anti-discrimination laws to protect its employees. Under Florida law, employers may not discriminate against job applicants or employees on the basis of:
- National Origin;
- Disability or handicap;
- Marital Status (single, married, divorced, widowed, et.);
- AIDS/HIV; or
- Sickle Cell Trait.
In addition, some cities in Florida have adopted additional protected classifications. For example, in Miami, it is illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Members of protected classes are not immune from being discharged. Anti-discrimination laws only apply if the reason for termination is related to their membership of a protected class. Employers are still permitted to discharge members of a protected class so long as the primary motivation for the discharge is unrelated to the employee’s class status. Some examples of non-discriminatory reasons for discharge include:
- Poor work quality;
- Failure to abide by company rules;
- Issues of fraud or dishonesty;
- Frequent absences from work;
- Theft or other criminal behavior;
- Sexual harassment or other discriminatory behavior in the workplace;
- Physical violence or threats against other employees.
If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination in the workplace or if you are defending against an accusation of employment discrimination, you should contact an experienced florida employment lawyer immediately.