"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Florida is considered an “at-will” state, meaning that your employer can fire you at any time without notice. State and federal laws are in place to fight back against illegal employment discrimination. But what is employment discrimination? How does it differ from a lawful termination? If you have been the victim of employment discrimination in Florida, how can you fight back?
It all boils down to a working knowledge of employment law and enlisting the aid of a skilled Florida employment attorney.
Discrimination is defined as, “prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment.” It most commonly involves issues surrounding gender or race. Employment discrimination occurs in the workplace, and involves any action taken against an individual due to their gender, race, age, nationality, religion, disability, pregnancy, medical condition and other characteristics specifically enumerated by law.
The most extreme form of employment discrimination is illegal termination. If you’ve been fired for any reason that could be associated with a prejudicial outlook, then you are the victim of employment discrimination.
There are anti-discrimination labor laws in place nation-wide, along with protective criteria specific to Florida.
All 50 states fall under the jurisdiction of federal employment laws that are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
One of the first major anti-discrimination laws passed throughout the United States was the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which states that both men and women must be paid equal wages for performing the same work with the same employer.
The law reads: “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee.”
Despite this, is has been reported that women still make only 78% of a man’s salary for performing the same job.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is by far the most well-known and cited anti-discrimination law. Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee due to their religion, race, color, sex, or national origin. The sincerely held religious beliefs of an employee must be accommodated, provided it does not impede the business.
The law states that, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –
“(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
“(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
For instance, a Muslim employee who prays several times in a day cannot be fired or reprimanded for doing so.
An amendment to Title VII known as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal to penalize a woman due to pregnancy, childbirth, or any medical condition that was brought on by either. That means, if you’re fired due to pregnancy in Florida, your employer has acted illegally, and you can fight back.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 makes it illegal to discriminate against qualified employment candidates due to a physical or mental disability.
The law defines a disability as, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.”
Furthermore, employers must reasonably accommodate disabled employees, provided that it does not disrupt the business or place an undue burden on the employer. Make no mistake about it, you cannot be fired in Florida for having a disability.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 is the most recent addition to our list. It ensures that employers cannot discriminate against employees or applicants due to genetic information, such as a disease.
The law reads, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer–
“(1) to fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any employee, or otherwise to discriminate against any employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee; or
“(2) to limit, segregate, or classify the employees of the employer in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive any employee of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the status of the employee as an employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee.”
In Florida, federal anti-discrimination laws apply to businesses with 15 or more employees. Issues of age discrimination apply to businesses with 20 or more employees. Employers with four or more employees cannot discriminate based on citizenship status, and every employer is mandated to comply with the Equal Pay Act.
Florida has a number of anti-discrimination laws in place, giving employees an added layer of security on top of what the federal government already protects.
According to state law, Florida employees are protected in the workplace against discrimination related to:
One glaring omission to this list is sexual orientation. So, can you be fired for being gay in Florida?
Technically, yes. Neither the federal government or the state of Florida provides employment protection for members of the LGBT community. However, 19 cities and 10 counties throughout Florida have passed legislation extending protections to workers based on sexual and gender orientation.
Miami-Dade County upholds employment protection for LGBT individuals, so you cannot be fired for being gay in Miami.
However, that leaves 57 out of Florida’s 67 counties without protection for LGBT employment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations do accept complaints based on gender identity and sexual orientation on the grounds that these instances violate state and national laws against sex-based discrimination.
If you are a Florida resident that has been the victim of malicious employment discrimination actions, you have a right to fight back.
The experienced Miami employment law attorneys at the Law Office of Keith M. Stern P.A. represent both employees and management on the state and federal level. We have also appeared before the administrative proceedings of government agencies due to claims of discrimination.
If you believe that you’ve been victimized and discriminated against by your employer, the first step is to file a Charge of Discrimination with either the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
When you’re ready to act, we’re ready to stand beside you and fight back against the employer who you believe has discriminated against you.
The Law Office of Keith M. Stern, P.A. has a wealth of experience in cases surrounding employment law, discrimination claims, and civil rights actions.
We are well versed in counseling and litigation in connection with charges of discrimination before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
We specialize in cases pertaining to:
We have a history of success in defending clients who have been discriminated against based on a disability or handicap, gender, health, AIDS and HIV-related issues, immigration issues, military service, national origin, race, religion, pregnancy, and sexual orientation.
We ensure that businesses comply with affirmative action laws, uphold the civil rights of their employees, state and federal requirements for drug and alcohol testing, employee privacy protection, international employment, procedures involving permissible hiring and interviewing, sexual harassment laws, and laws pertaining to workers compensation retaliation.
Our skilled employment attorneys protect our clients from constructive discharge, issues related to employee performance appraisals, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress on a daily basis.
If you feel you've been subjected to discrimination or need representation from an experienced labor & employment attorney in Miami to guide you through a workplace dispute, contact the Law Office of Keith M. Stern, P.A. today. Protecting your rights and fighting injustice is what we do, because Your Work Is Our Business.