Skip to main content
Donna Marie Ballman

Donna Ballman’s Answers

78 total


  • I feel like im being set up at my job like im a target they set traps and write me up on the mistakes im the only one

    who gets this done when everryone else makes the same mistakes what are my rights

    Donna’s Answer

    Many employees have the mistaken belief that, if they are being harassed by their employer, a supervisor, or a co-worker that they have a claim against the employer. The only type of harassment that is illegal in Florida is harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, color, disability, marital status, pregnancy, having objected to illegal activity, having taken Family and Medical Leave, having made a worker’s compensation claim, because of testimony under subpoena, or having engaged in activity that is otherwise protected by a statute. If your boss is a jerk or abusive, that is not illegal. And many small employers are not covered by these laws at all.
    The other thing that I hear is, “I was harassed, so I quit and then I told them why.” This is a frequent mistake. The Supreme Court says that, where an employer has a published sexual harassment/discriminatory harassment policy, the employee must report it under that policy and so the employer can fix the situation. Remedies may be to discipline or warn, move the harasser, sometimes moving the victim, do training, or in extreme cases, terminate the harasser. If you didn’t use the employer’s policy before quitting, you’re giving up your right to sue for a violation.
    Many employees simply refuse to go back to work, even where the employer has warned or disciplined the harasser. It is the employer’s duty to create a safe workplace. If you return and are retaliated against or continue to be harassed, report it again. If the employer allows retaliation or continued harassment, that is the time to get an attorney involved.
    The harasser who gets away with small violations will usually accelerate the behavior until stopped. If the employer turns their head to this type of behavior, they run the risk, once being placed on notice of the harasser’s propensity, of being held strictly liable for their behavior or even incurring punitive damages.
    The sad truth in Florida is that sexual harassment is becoming difficult to win in court. Behavior that courts have rejected as not being sexual harassment has included calling at home asking for dates, looking down a blouse, lifting up a skirt, one or two instances of groping, single instances of disgusting comments, rubbing, and all types of extreme behavior. Does the law need to be strengthened? Absolutely.
    Does this mean you should give up? Absolutely not. Employers will usually take accusations of this type of conduct seriously. Most employers know that this behavior is disruptive, has nothing to do with making money, and can adversely affect morale. Even if the employer takes no action, by reporting their inaction to EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, you have put these agencies on notice that this behavior is occurring.
    General harassment, bullying, and other disruptive behavior that is not addressed to an employee for a protected status or activity is not illegal. Before you write the long letter airing all your grievances against your boss, you may want to have an attorney look at it, or just make sure you are addressing your protected status. If you do complain, put it in writing and call it, “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT,” o “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF RACIAL HARASSMENT” or whatever category you fit into. Set forth the harassment due to your protected status, and be businesslike. This is not the time to air all your complaints about the business or your boss, only to air the specific complaint about the illegal behavior.
    While a long letter stating that your supervisor is incompetent or a jerk can and should get you fired, the formal complaint addressing illegal behavior should get a serious response.
    If you are illegally harassed, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Report it to the employer and give them a chance to address it. If they allow the harassment to continue, or if they retaliate, contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.

    See question 
  • When asked if I had ever been convicted of a felony in an employment application, should I answer yes or no?

    In 1982, when I was 17, as part of a group, I was charged and pleaded guilty to the felony offense Vandalism to a place of worship in Jasper GA. We were practicing shoot the target in the wood with a 177 pellet air rifle. Some of the shots broke...

    Donna’s Answer

    Unless it has been expunged, you need to answer yes. If it has been expunged, for most jobs you can legally answer no. However, for some public jobs you may still have to disclose a conviction even if it has been expunged. It sounds like you never went through the process to get it expunged, so you probably have to answer yes.

    I hope this helps!

    See question 
  • I need advice on how to proceed with a former employer that will not tell me what kind of reference they are putting out

    What can i do to find out what a former employer is telling prospective new jobs. I had been hired for a new position to start today and they rescinded the job offer based on a negative reference from the past employer.. They would not tell me w...

    Donna’s Answer

    There are online reference checking companies you can hire that will call the employer and ask for a reference as if they were potential employers (the one that comes to mind is badreferences.com, but there are many others). If you use one that has court reporters calling, you can get an exact transcript of what was said. Others do summaries of what was said. If the employer is making false statements of fact (not opinion) such as saying you stole or did something criminal, you may have a defamation case. But in Florida, they are pretty much allowed to say anything truthful in references. Still, it's better to know what is being said so you can prepare yourself for interviews and inoculate against a bad reference, or find someone who might give a good reference about your work who might be willing to be called directly.

    See question 
  • As a salary employee , how many hours are considered a full week?

    I've been a salaried employee for the last 2.5 years..I never signed a contract but i was verbally advised that I had to work m-f 8-5 by the management now all suddenly they want me to from 7:30-5 m-f and every other saturday 8-5 without any other...

    Donna’s Answer

    They can require overtime. The bigger question is whether they have to pay you for it. That depends on whether you are exempt or not. I would suggest contacting an attorney who specializes in wage/hour cases to figure out if you are owed overtime. The Department of Labor also has a good website that can advise you on exemption categories that you might want to check out, http://www.dol.gov.

    See question 
  • I have been on suspendion for two weeks for something i didn't do how long can this go on?

    I have been suspended without pay for something i didn't do. Also since i started working at RSW two years ago i have been harrassed by my supervisor. which i have kept notes. what should i do and how long can they keep me on suspension plus i n...

    Donna’s Answer

    At some point, you can consider that you've been terminated and apply for unemployment. Before that time, you might want to address the harassment. The only type of harassment that is illegal in Florida is harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, color, disability, marital status, pregnancy, having objected to illegal activity, having taken Family and Medical Leave, having made a worker’s compensation claim, because of testimony under subpoena, or having engaged in activity that is otherwise protected by a statute. If your boss is a jerk or abusive, that is not illegal. And many small employers are not covered by these laws at all.
    The other thing that I hear is, “I was harassed, so I quit and then I told them why.” This is a frequent mistake. The Supreme Court says that, where an employer has a published sexual harassment/discriminatory harassment policy, the employee must report it under that policy and so the employer can fix the situation. Remedies may be to discipline or warn, move the harasser, sometimes moving the victim, do training, or in extreme cases, terminate the harasser. If you didn’t use the employer’s policy before quitting, you’re giving up your right to sue for a violation.
    Many employees simply refuse to go back to work, even where the employer has warned or disciplined the harasser. It is the employer’s duty to create a safe workplace. If you return and are retaliated against or continue to be harassed, report it again. If the employer allows retaliation or continued harassment, that is the time to get an attorney involved.
    The harasser who gets away with small violations will usually accelerate the behavior until stopped. If the employer turns their head to this type of behavior, they run the risk, once being placed on notice of the harasser’s propensity, of being held strictly liable for their behavior or even incurring punitive damages.
    The sad truth in Florida is that sexual harassment is becoming difficult to win in court. Behavior that courts have rejected as not being sexual harassment has included calling at home asking for dates, looking down a blouse, lifting up a skirt, one or two instances of groping, single instances of disgusting comments, rubbing, and all types of extreme behavior. Does the law need to be strengthened? Absolutely.
    Does this mean you should give up? Absolutely not. Employers will usually take accusations of this type of conduct seriously. Most employers know that this behavior is disruptive, has nothing to do with making money, and can adversely affect morale. Even if the employer takes no action, by reporting their inaction to EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, you have put these agencies on notice that this behavior is occurring.
    General harassment, bullying, and other disruptive behavior that is not addressed to an employee for a protected status or activity is not illegal. Before you write the long letter airing all your grievances against your boss, you may want to have an attorney look at it, or just make sure you are addressing your protected status. If you do complain, put it in writing and call it, “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT,” o “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF RACIAL HARASSMENT” or whatever category you fit into. Set forth the harassment due to your protected status, and be businesslike. This is not the time to air all your complaints about the business or your boss, only to air the specific complaint about the illegal behavior.
    While a long letter stating that your supervisor is incompetent or a jerk can and should get you fired, the formal complaint addressing illegal behavior should get a serious response.
    If you are illegally harassed, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Report it to the employer and give them a chance to address it. If they allow the harassment to continue, or if they retaliate, contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.

    See question 
  • I have a written pay aggrement for pay yearly, can this pay be ducted from if i miss a day?

    pay agrreement is for yearly pay i missed a day for doctors appoint and was deducted for that day is this legal

    Donna’s Answer

    It depends on how the contract is worded and whether you are exempt or non-exempt, salaried or hourly. I would suggest having an employment attorney look at the agreement so you can be advised of your options.

    I hope this helps!

    See question 
  • I was wrongfully terminated and have not recieved any unemployment, can I sue my former employer?

    I was terminated via text message and now my former employer is saying he never fired me. I still have the text messages from him saying I don't have a job. I filed for unemployment a couple of days later and about a month went by when I finally r...

    Donna’s Answer

    The text message should be admissible in the unemployment hearing, so I suspect you'll qualify.

    You’ve been fired or disciplined without justification. You want to sue for wrongful termination. If you lived in New Jersey, California, or some other states, your employer would need to have cause to fire you. Not so in Florida. Florida is an at-will state, which means an employer may fire, demote, hire, promote and discipline employees for pretty much any reason, or no reason at all. The only way to change that is to urge your state legislators to pass more protections for employees.

    That doesn’t mean there are no protections for employees. You should ask yourself the following questions to see if you might be covered under some employment law:

    Did my supervisors make any comments indicating bias? If your supervisor made racist or sexist jokes, said they thought you were too old or your disability made you unable to do the job, required you to work on religious holidays, or made other comments that would indicate a bias, you may have direct evidence of discrimination.

    Was I treated differently than others in the same situation? If you don’t have direct evidence of discrimination, you may be able demonstrate you were treated differently than those of a different race, sex, religion, national origin, age, or other protected status under the same circumstances. Try to think of people who are of a different race/age/sex, etc. and were treated differently from you. Find out if there are people who have also been the victims of similar discrimination.

    Why was I really fired? Most employees have a pretty good idea why they were fired. If you made a worker’s compensation claim and were fired a week later, that’s a good indication you were fired in retaliation for making the claim. If you reported your supervisor for Medicare fraud, and then the supervisor fires you, you may have a whistleblower claim.

    Is my employer saying something false about me? If potential employers tell you are going to be hired if your references check out, and then the job is mysteriously filled when you call back, your employer may be giving false or damaging information about you. There are professional reference-checking companies who will call for you and see what an employer is saying about you. If you can prove it’s false, you may be able to sue for defamation.

    Am I in some protected category? If you were fired after you took some protected action, you may be able to sue for retaliation. Think about whether you recently made a worker’s compensation claim, performed jury duty, served in the military, took family/medical leave, served as a witness in a lawsuit, provided testimony or evidence to EEOC, refused to participate in illegal activity, reported illegal activity, or engaged in protected free speech.

    If you believe something illegal has happened, contact an attorney to discuss the possibility that you may have a case.

    What if I don’t think something illegal happened? Even if nothing illegal happened, many employers will discuss a severance agreement with an employment attorney hired to negotiate with them. As an attorney who has been practicing since 1986 in employment law, I find that sometimes an amicable transition is the best way for both employer and employee to move on in a positive direction. If you are offered a severance package, it is best to have an attorney review it prior to signing. Many employment attorneys will work to negotiate a better package for you.

    The best course of action when terminated, particularly where you believe there was no just cause, is to contact an attorney who handles employment law to discuss your options.

    See question 
  • If another employee at your company constantly belittles you and talks down to you....is that consider harassment?

    For 2 years....another employee with the company constantly treats me as if "I were her employee" (aka she was my boss) Today after a random email she replied to myself (as well as including a sting of other employees) throwing me under the bus an...

    Donna’s Answer

    Many employees have the mistaken belief that, if they are being harassed by their employer, a supervisor, or a co-worker that they have a claim against the employer. The only type of harassment that is illegal in Florida is harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, color, disability, marital status, pregnancy, having objected to illegal activity, having taken Family and Medical Leave, having made a worker’s compensation claim, because of testimony under subpoena, or having engaged in activity that is otherwise protected by a statute. If your boss is a jerk or abusive, that is not illegal. And many small employers are not covered by these laws at all.
    The other thing that I hear is, “I was harassed, so I quit and then I told them why.” This is a frequent mistake. The Supreme Court says that, where an employer has a published sexual harassment/discriminatory harassment policy, the employee must report it under that policy and so the employer can fix the situation. Remedies may be to discipline or warn, move the harasser, sometimes moving the victim, do training, or in extreme cases, terminate the harasser. If you didn’t use the employer’s policy before quitting, you’re giving up your right to sue for a violation.
    Many employees simply refuse to go back to work, even where the employer has warned or disciplined the harasser. It is the employer’s duty to create a safe workplace. If you return and are retaliated against or continue to be harassed, report it again. If the employer allows retaliation or continued harassment, that is the time to get an attorney involved.
    The harasser who gets away with small violations will usually accelerate the behavior until stopped. If the employer turns their head to this type of behavior, they run the risk, once being placed on notice of the harasser’s propensity, of being held strictly liable for their behavior or even incurring punitive damages.
    The sad truth in Florida is that sexual harassment is becoming difficult to win in court. Behavior that courts have rejected as not being sexual harassment has included calling at home asking for dates, looking down a blouse, lifting up a skirt, one or two instances of groping, single instances of disgusting comments, rubbing, and all types of extreme behavior. Does the law need to be strengthened? Absolutely.
    Does this mean you should give up? Absolutely not. Employers will usually take accusations of this type of conduct seriously. Most employers know that this behavior is disruptive, has nothing to do with making money, and can adversely affect morale. Even if the employer takes no action, by reporting their inaction to EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, you have put these agencies on notice that this behavior is occurring.
    General harassment, bullying, and other disruptive behavior that is not addressed to an employee for a protected status or activity is not illegal. Before you write the long letter airing all your grievances against your boss, you may want to have an attorney look at it, or just make sure you are addressing your protected status. If you do complain, put it in writing and call it, “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT,” o “FORMAL COMPLAINT OF RACIAL HARASSMENT” or whatever category you fit into. Set forth the harassment due to your protected status, and be businesslike. This is not the time to air all your complaints about the business or your boss, only to air the specific complaint about the illegal behavior.
    While a long letter stating that your supervisor is incompetent or a jerk can and should get you fired, the formal complaint addressing illegal behavior should get a serious response.
    If you are illegally harassed, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Report it to the employer and give them a chance to address it. If they allow the harassment to continue, or if they retaliate, contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.

    See question 
  • Can a unionized company pre-emptively fire employees prior to determining actual wrongdoing?

    I work for a large, unionized and heavily federally subsidized company with nationwide offices. I have seen numerous fellow employees experience being pre-emptively fired after being charged with a violation of company standards or regulations, an...

    Donna’s Answer

    You’ve been fired or disciplined without justification. You want to sue for wrongful termination. If you lived in New Jersey, California, or some other states, your employer would need to have cause to fire you. Not so in Florida. Florida is an at-will state, which means an employer may fire, demote, hire, promote and discipline employees for pretty much any reason, or no reason at all. The only way to change that is to urge your state legislators to pass more protections for employees.

    That doesn’t mean there are no protections for employees. You should ask yourself the following questions to see if you might be covered under some employment law:

    Did my supervisors make any comments indicating bias? If your supervisor made racist or sexist jokes, said they thought you were too old or your disability made you unable to do the job, required you to work on religious holidays, or made other comments that would indicate a bias, you may have direct evidence of discrimination.

    Was I treated differently than others in the same situation? If you don’t have direct evidence of discrimination, you may be able demonstrate you were treated differently than those of a different race, sex, religion, national origin, age, or other protected status under the same circumstances. Try to think of people who are of a different race/age/sex, etc. and were treated differently from you. Find out if there are people who have also been the victims of similar discrimination.

    Why was I really fired? Most employees have a pretty good idea why they were fired. If you made a worker’s compensation claim and were fired a week later, that’s a good indication you were fired in retaliation for making the claim. If you reported your supervisor for Medicare fraud, and then the supervisor fires you, you may have a whistleblower claim.

    Is my employer saying something false about me? If potential employers tell you are going to be hired if your references check out, and then the job is mysteriously filled when you call back, your employer may be giving false or damaging information about you. There are professional reference-checking companies who will call for you and see what an employer is saying about you. If you can prove it’s false, you may be able to sue for defamation.

    Am I in some protected category? If you were fired after you took some protected action, you may be able to sue for retaliation. Think about whether you recently made a worker’s compensation claim, performed jury duty, served in the military, took family/medical leave, served as a witness in a lawsuit, provided testimony or evidence to EEOC, refused to participate in illegal activity, reported illegal activity, or engaged in protected free speech.

    If you believe something illegal has happened, contact an attorney to discuss the possibility that you may have a case.

    What if I don’t think something illegal happened? Even if nothing illegal happened, many employers will discuss a severance agreement with an employment attorney hired to negotiate with them. As an attorney who has been practicing since 1986 in employment law, I find that sometimes an amicable transition is the best way for both employer and employee to move on in a positive direction. If you are offered a severance package, it is best to have an attorney review it prior to signing. Many employment attorneys will work to negotiate a better package for you.

    The best course of action when terminated, particularly where you believe there was no just cause, is to contact an attorney who handles employment law to discuss your options.

    See question 
  • If i change job can i work in a 2 miles one from the other even im doing diferent work

    i move to another job but the company that i work before is less than 2 miles than the other i doing something different in the second com pany but now i hear that i can not keep on working there if not i can get a demand is this true. thank you

    Donna’s Answer

    Do you have a non-compete agreement? If not, you can work where you want.

    Your employer will say you are bound by your non-compete agreement when you leave if you signed one. Most employees don’t have the will or resources to fight. Many think, if employers forced them to sign or fired them, they are not bound by a non-compete agreement. That’s not true. Florida statutes presume non-compete agreements are valid. That doesn’t mean you can’t get out of yours if you’re willing to fight.

    Usually the employer sends a letter threatening to sue the employee and the new employer, and the employee gets fired from the new job, even if the new employer knew about the non-compete. Unless you have a contract with the new employer saying you can only be fired for cause, and that the non-compete with the former employer is not cause, Florida is an at-will state. That means an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all.

    You should consult an attorney before signing a non-compete. If you signed without getting advice, you may have some ways to defeat your non-compete.

    1. Employer breaches the contract: If your employer put the non-compete provision in an employment contract spelling out compensation, insurance and other conditions of employment, your attorney should go through it line-by-line. If the employer breached the agreement by not paying all compensation and benefits due, or failing to meet some other obligation, the employee is relieved of the contract.

    2. No interest to enforce: It is common for employers to overreach their legitimate business interests. An employer has no legitimate interest in enforcing a non-compete against receptionists and clerical employees. An employer who manufactures software for accountants has no interest in preventing an employee from working on software for doctors. An employer phasing out of an area has no interest in preventing an employee from working in that area. An employer who abandons a customer, area of business, or product has no interest in the area it abandoned. Legitimate interests include:
    a. Trade secrets;
    b. Valuable confidential business or professional information;
    c. Substantial relationships with specific prospective or existing customers, patients, or clients;
    d. Goodwill associated with an ongoing business or professional practice, by way of a trademark, geographic location or marketing/trade area;
    e. Extraordinary or specialized training

    3. Agreement is for too long: Less than 6 months is presumed valid, and over 2 years is presumed invalid. In between, the employer will have to prove that the time period is reasonable. Most courts will assume agreements up to 2 years are reasonable. There is a related statute finding 3 years reasonable when there is a former business owner selling a business.

    4. The so-called confidential information is available to the public: Many companies get their leads from public sources. Phone books, the internet, notification services, are sources available to anyone in the industry. An employer will have to show the information was not available to everyone else in the industry. Customer lists or unique sources are protected, but chamber of commerce directories are not.

    5. Public health or safety would not be served: This primarily applies to doctors, nurses, and people in specialized scientific/health areas.

    I tell people to assume their non-compete agreements are enforceable, and not to sign them unless they can live with the restrictions. But an employee with the time, will, and resources to fight can frequently limit or eliminate their non-compete provisions.

    An employer who loses a non-compete suit will pay the employee’s attorney’s fees and costs, and may be liable for tortious interference if they cost the employee a job.

    If you’re leaving a job and you have a non-compete, get advice from an employment attorney before you leave. If you get sued, you MUST contact an employment attorney immediately to defend yourself.

    See question