Employment law is an umbrella term that is used to describe a broad range of legal issues associated with employees, employers, and safety conditions in the workplace. Some employment laws may apply to a case involving employment discrimination, while other employment laws can provide guidance when drafting company policies or employee handbooks.
The overall purpose of employment law is to protect all of those who are part of the workforce. This includes, but may not be limited to:
- Establishing protection for employees in disputes against a colleague, employer, or company;
- Ensuring that businesses do not discriminate against prospective job candidates or current employees during the interviewing, hiring, promoting, or terminating process;
- Granting specific rights to those who are self-employed, or who are considered to be independent contractors; and
- Ensuring that volunteers and interns do not suffer from sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation while in the workplace.
It is important to note that employment laws can vary widely by jurisdiction. What this means is that the rights protected by one state may not be available as a protection under the laws of another state. Additionally, some issues may be governed by both state and federal employment laws, such as pregnancy leave.
In terms of employee legal rights, some examples include:
- The right to privacy;
- The right to be free from discrimination; and
- The right to fair compensation.
Essentially, if a right is listed under an employment law, it will most likely apply and can be used in order to protect an employee. Employees may also have other legal rights granted by an employment contract.
Many of the rights that are provided by employment laws are associated with the well-being and safety of employee conditions in the workplace. An example of this would be how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) enforces laws and policies intended to protect employees from dangerous conditions and unsafe work environments.
An example of this would be an employer who refuses to fix equipment, or to repair a building, which then develops into an issue that exposes their employees to toxic chemicals. An employee whose health has been negatively affected by the chemicals may file a complaint to OSHA. OSHA would then investigate the complaint in order to determine whether to issue sanctions against the employer.
What Is At-Will Employment?
At-will employment is a legal term used in employment agreements, describing the employment status of an employee. Specifically, the term means that the employee is being hired for an indefinite period of time; and, their employer has the right to terminate them at any time, without cause, meaning for any or no reason. The term also means that the employee has the right to terminate their own employment, at any time, for any or no reason.
Simply put, neither the employer nor the employee must state a justified reason for terminating the employment relationship. Any reason will be considered a proper basis for termination, including having no reason at all, so long as it is not considered to be illegal.
The larger issue with at-will employment is that regardless of whether it is the employee or employer who decides to terminate the employment relationship, the other party has no way of preventing it from happening. Additionally, at-will employees are subject to an employer’s decisions. What this means is that the employer can change the terms of the employee’s employment without notice, and will not face any legal consequences for doing so. An example of this would be how an employer can terminate an at-will employee’s benefits or reduce their wages, and cannot be penalized for carrying out these decisions.
What Are Florida’s Employment Laws?
Florida employment laws govern nearly every aspect of an employer-employee relationship. These statutes and regulations offer safeguards to employees against arbitrary and unlawful decisions by employers, as well as allow employers to do business without facing many obstacles. For these reasons, Florida’s employment laws are necessarily broad.
Florida is considered to be an at-will employment state. Additionally, the Florida Civil Rights Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees. As such, the following factors are forbidden from being used in a decision to hire or fire an employee:
- National origin;
- Age, if the employee is 40 or older;
- Marital status;
- AIDS and HIV; and
- Sickle cell trait.
Simply put, any employer who violates the law by dismissing or refusing to hire an employee for one of these reasons could be subject to both Florida state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
While federal law controls the absolute minimum wage every worker is entitled to, Florida is separate from the federal standard in some specific ways. Florida’s minimum wage is $7.93, which puts the state as being slightly above the federal minimum. In Florida, minimum wage is subject to exceptions based on the type of work an employee does.
An example of this would be how if an employee works for tips, such as a server or a bartender, they are only legally entitled to a minimum of $4.91 an hour. Additionally, Florida does not have specific laws on overtime; meaning, the state adheres to federal overtime law.
Florida has specific laws which govern sexual harassment in the workplace. The states defines sexual harassment as:
- Unwelcome sexual advances;
- Requests for sexual favors; and/or
- Other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
What Are Some Other Examples Of Florida Employment Law?
To summarize, some other examples of Florida employment laws include:
- Florida permits pre employment background checks, as well as drug testing;
- The state maintains laws associated with employee pay and benefits, such as payment of wages, wage deductions, and health care continuation;
- Florida entitles employees to specific types of leave or time off, including domestic violence leave, jury duty leave, witness leave, military leave, and Civil Air Patrol leave;
- The state prohibits smoking in the workplace, as well as texting while driving;
- Florida permits employees to carry a firearm, in a privately owned motor vehicle, while on employer property; and
- When a person’s employment ends, Florida employers must comply with all applicable final pay and job reference requirements.
In terms of equal pay, Florida prohibits pay discrimination based on sex for jobs requiring:
- Equal skill;
- Responsibility; and
- Performance under similar working conditions.
This law applies to any employer with two or more employees, if the employer is not subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Differentiations in pay are only allowed when made under:
- A system based on seniority or merit;
- A system measuring earnings based on quantity or quality of production; or
- Any reasonable factor other than an employee’s sex or gender identity.
Florida employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee when they have:
- Disclosed or threatened to disclose an activity, policy or practice of the employer that violates a law, rule or regulation. This is provided that the employee first brought the activity, policy, or practice to the attention of a supervisor and gave the employer a reasonable opportunity in which to correct it;
- Provided information or testimony associated with any investigation, hearing, or inquiry into an alleged violation of a law, rule, or regulation; and/or
- Objected to or refused to participate in any activity, policy, or practice that violates a law, rule, or regulation.
It is important to note that when there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, adhering to the law offering the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.
Do I Need An Attorney For Issues Associated With Florida Employment Law?
If you are an employee in Florida, and have any questions or issues associated with the state’s employment law, you should consult with a Florida employment attorney. An experienced and local employment lawyer will be best suited to helping you understand your rights under Florida’s employment laws.