The Basics of Employment Law in Florida
(Don't go it alone)
Although Florida is an employment-at-will State there are many laws in place which trump the employment at will status afforded to employers. Employment at will means that an employer can fire hire promote or demote for any reason or no reason at all so long as employer does not violate a written contract of a State or Federal Statute.
In Florida, employees are generally protected from being discriminated as a result of age, gender, race, ethnic background, religion, disability and pregnancy discrimination. This means that an employer may not take tangible actions against you because of one of the characteristics mentioned above. Additionally, employees, both males and females, are protected from sexual harassment, and from having a severe or pervasive hostile work environment that is motivated as a result of one of the activities mentioned above.
In addition to the discrimination laws which are codified by the Federal Act, Title VII and Florida Statute Chapter 760, employees are protected from being retaliated as a result of having complained about being discriminated based on the protected traits above. There are literally hundreds of other anti-retaliation laws such as FLSA retaliation, whistleblower laws, OSHA retaliation, Union Activity participation, USERRA Retaliation, Jury Duty Retaliation and participating in certain types of government investigations.
Employees are also entitled to their earned wages and commissions and to overtime pay if they perform manual labor or non discretionary jobs for more than 40 hours per week. Additionally, if an employee works for an employer that has 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius of where employee works, then that employee is also protected under the Family Medical Leave act, also known as the FMLA. The FMLA does not give the employee mandated wages, but it does protect an employee's job as a result of taking medical time off as a result of a significant medical condition. The FMLA protects leave needed to be taken as a result of you or your spouses' significant medical condition, your children and your parents if parents have a disability. Additional FMLA protections are afforded to active member of the armed forces and their families.
Other employee-employer applicable laws are Florida's non competition and restriction of trade statutes which are codified by Florida Statute Chapter 542.335 which gives the ability to an employer to restrict an ex employee's ability to work for a competitor. In Florida, non competes are enforceable if they are reasonably tailored to serve a legitimate business interests. Reasonably tailored usually means, a restriction of trade of up to two years within a reasonable geographic areas. While non competitions are enforceable, employees have many defenses available to them such as employers' unclean hands, a prior breach, or that the non compete is simply being enforced to harass employee. The financial predicament of the employee is now irrelevant for determining the viability of enforcing the non compete.
Employment Law also embodies many other areas which include Union, collective bargaining, Unemployment Compensation, ERISA (Pensions and Retirements), Workers Compensation Retaliation, Severance Agreements, Settlements, Employer Mediation and Arbitration claims, Commission disputes and Unpaid wages.
The synopsis above is certainly not an exhaustive list and it should be taken is only as a general summary. Employment Law cases have a plethora of exceptions, intricacies and tend to be esoteric which necessitates an experienced attorney which specializes in these matters. Most employment lawyers, after an initial paid consultation take the employment law cases on a contingency fee basis(for free to employee at the expense of the employer). Most employment law statutes provides for recovery of attorney fees and costs which permit lawyers and attorneys who specialize in employment law to take relatively small cases just because it is the right thing to do. It is not uncommon for a prevailing plaintiff to receive all his lost wages or losses and for the plaintiff's attorney to receive all of his attorney fees and costs which could be significantly more than what the client was initially owed.
At Arcadier and Associates, Managing Law Firm Partner, Maurice Arcadier heads the employment law sections of the firm out of both the Boca Raton, Florida and Melbourne, Florida locations. Mr. Arcadier is board certified in Labor and Employment Law, is AV rated, and has been successfully representing employees and businesses in Florida since 1997.