No matter what industry you work in or what your job status is, you have rights. But too often, employees don’t know what these rights are, and, more importantly, they don’t recognize it when their employer violates these rights. You shouldn’t assume the employer is well-versed in labor laws or take what they say at face value without stopping to consider whether it’s against the law.
Some employers are simply oblivious and unintentionally violate employee rights. But whether intentional or not, breaking the law is breaking the law, and if your employer violates your rights, you could be losing time and money.
Florida employee rights need to be taken seriously. See if your employer is violating any of these six workplace laws.
Common workplace laws that Florida employers violate
1. Paying less than minimum wage
The national minimum wage is currently $7.25. Employees who work off of tips can make less than this as base pay, but only to a certain point. Employers can’t deduct more than $5.12 from their employees’ hourly wage, which means if you work for tips (such as wait staff) then you can’t be paid less than $2.13 per hour.
If you work in a state with a minimum wage that’s higher than the federal minimum wage, you’re entitled to the higher amount. For instance, Florida minimum wage as of January 1, 2019, is $8.46 per hour. Tipped employees in Florida must be paid at least $5.44 per hour.
2. Not paying overtime
Some employers will deliberately avoid paying overtime to employees, while others are just unaware of the labor laws related to paying overtime. Your employer doesn’t decide whether or not you get overtime pay – the government does, and by dividing types of jobs into exempt and non-exempt categories as covered by the Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA).
Not all jobs and workplaces fall under the FSLA, however. Railroad workers, for instance, are governed by the Railway Labor Act and so they aren’t covered by the FSLA.
While there are several factors that determine whether you’re exempt or non-exempt, there are some general guidelines that can help you determine your status.
Exempt employees are salaried employees who make at least $455 per week and perform exempt job duties. They don’t qualify for overtime.
Non-exempt employees are hourly workers. If you make less than $455 per week, you’re automatically non-exempt. Non-exempt employees must be paid FSLA overtime (one and a half times pay) for every hour they work over 40 hours within any given work week.
Not being paid for overtime hours that you qualify for can be a significant loss of income. If you believe your Florida employee rights have been violated because you’ve been wrongfully classified as an exempt employee, contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today.
It might seem like there are enough laws in place now that employers wouldn’t discriminate based on age, sex, or disability. There are still companies out there, unfortunately, who discriminate both unintentionally and with full intent.
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against because of your age, gender, disability, or because you’re pregnant, your legal employee rights may have been violated.
4. Hired as an independent contractor but treated as an employee
Independent contractors are being used by more and more industries to cut costs but still retain a valuable workforce. A worker who meets set criteria under employment laws and the IRS code technically isn’t an employee, which means the independent contractor can set his or her own hours and determine when they work for a company. The contractor has some greater flexibility but also loses valuable protections under the law extended to “employees” only.
Some companies, though, will treat an independent contractor as if they’re an employee, perhaps telling the contractor when to show up to work, how long to work for, and how to do their job. Essentially, they treat the contractor as an employee but without a higher wage, employer benefits, protections under the law, or access to company tools and resources.
If you’re working as an independent contractor but are being treated more like an employee (without the added pay and benefits), you may have a claim for a violation of your employee rights.
5. Unfair payment
First, it’s a myth that employees can’t discuss their salary with each other, and it’s certainly not against the law. In fact, sometimes this is how you can learn whether you’re being paid fairly in comparison with colleagues at your same level. There are laws in place to ensure that everyone gets equal pay based on gender, race, age, and ability.
If you believe you’re being paid unfairly, you’ll have to start with a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before pursuing a lawsuit. You’ll want to consult with an employee rights attorney to make sure the process goes smoothly and is done correctly. You can file a claim with the EEOC if you believe you’ve been discriminated against or if you believe the employer has retaliated against you for opposing their practices or attempting to assert your rights.
The EEOC process can take a year or longer from the time you file a claim until you hear back from the investigator if they believe your claim warrants litigation due to unlawful discrimination or retaliation. The EEOC does not represent you. It is an investigatory agency. Legal counsel can represent you in this process and advocate for your rights.
6. Working in a hostile work environment
It’s unlikely you’ll get along with every coworker, but when your interactions in the workplace are intimidating or abusive, you need to take action. A hostile work environment is one where the employee feels threatened either physically or emotionally on the basis of a protected status. Hostility can take several forms and is often the result of discrimination.
Keep in mind that while you may see an act as hostile, it may not be so in a court of law. If you believe you’re working in a hostile work environment, take notes and keep records to document specific incidents. The more documentation you have, the better you’ll be able to argue that your work environment is hostile and tied to a protected status. Consult with an employee rights attorney to make sure your case is handled correctly from the start.
What are my legal rights as an employee?
The Federal Labor Law exists to ensure employees are treated fairly in the workplace. As an employee, you have the right to be treated fairly based on your age, sex, gender, and race, among other protected categories. You have the right to fair compensation, and you have the right to fair pay. If you believe any of your employee rights have been violated, consult with an employee rights attorney to see if moving forward with a lawsuit is right for you.
Can you fire someone for no reason in Florida?
Florida is an at-will state, which means an employer can fire an employee for any reason or even for no reason at all. There are some exceptions, though.
First, not every workplace qualifies for the at-will status. Some employees have contracts that guarantee job security. Usually, in Florida, these contracts specify a time period for guaranteed employment. If your employer violates the terms of the contract, they might be liable for breach of contract.
If you’re an employee who’s been fired because of discriminatory or otherwise illegal practices, then you can file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Protect your employee rights today
If you believe that your rights as an employee have been violated in any way, talk to a lawyer who specializes in employee rights. Our employee rights attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. can determine what rights have been violated and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a free consultation. You’ll want a professional involved with your case as early in the process as possible to ensure you’re getting the best outcome and your rights are protected.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.