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Florida Employment Law Basics

Posted by attorney Benjamin Yormak

Federal and state laws make it illegal to discriminate, harass, or retaliate against an individual in employment based on race or color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, age, or pregnancy or for complaining about discrimination or participating in a government investigation of claims of discrimination. Discrimination can include failure to hire; failure to promote; harsher discipline than another employee accused of a similar offense; termination; cut in pay; cut in hours; change in work schedule, among other issues. Commonemployment matters, including:

  • Employment Discrimination: Age, Race, Gender, National Origin, Disability, Religion, Sexual Orientation
  • Americans With Disabilities Act
  • Family Medical Leave Act
  • Pregnancy Discrimination
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Whistleblower
  • Retaliation
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Florida Commission on Human Rights (FCHR)
  • Wage & Hour
  • Veteran Employment Rights
  • Social Security (SSD)
  • Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA)
  • Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS)
  • Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP)
  • Public Employee Relations Commission Appeals (PERC)

Understand Your Rights

In Florida, as in most states, employment is “at will." This means that unless you have an employment contract or union protection, your employer has the power to fire you for any reason or for no reason whatsoever. However, an employer can never fire you for a reason that violates the law.

In general, an employer cannot allow an employee’s inherent characteristics or the fact that the employee complained about illegal conduct to affect decision-making about that employee.

You cannot be fired for:

  • Discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity
  • Harassment based on any of the above characteristics
  • Discrimination or harassment based on your association with someone of a different race (such as having a spouse, boyfriend, or child of another race)
  • Retaliation because you have opposed or made a complaint about illegal discrimination or harassment
  • Retaliation because you have done something that you are legally obligated or entitled to do

When we refer to “discrimination," we normally mean things like being disciplined, fired, demoted, not hired, or not promoted. “Harassment" refers to work experiences other than discipline or termination that make your work experience extremely difficult. Again, those experiences need to be tied to your race, gender, age, or some other characteristic protected by law. “Retaliation" simply means an act of the employer designed to punish an employee for exercising her rights. It is retaliation if you complain of discrimination and, in response, your employer disciplines you, threatens you, or makes your life miserable.

DEADLINES: You will lose your rights unless you take some kind of action, like filing a civil rights complaint or a lawsuit, within a reasonable time frame after something bad happens at work. Deadlines for taking action on employment law cases vary by the type of case. They can be as short as 45 days and as long as 5 years. You should consult with an attorney or take other action as soon as possible to make sure you are not left without a remedy.

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