Florida Employment Law Basics

By Lisa Guerin, ​J.D., Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley
If you have a job in Florida, make sure you know about the federal and state employment laws that protect your rights.

Are you a Florida employee? If so, you should know about the federal and Florida employment laws that protect your rights at work. Employers must comply with employment laws in every part of the employment relationship, from hiring to firing. These laws prohibit discrimination, require employers to pay overtime, and give eligible employees the right to take leave for certain reasons.

Below, we introduce some of the laws that protect your workplace rights in Florida.

Wage and Hour Laws in Florida

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Florida law set the rules for minimum wage, overtime, and other wage and hour protections. Employers must pay the highest minimum wage applicable to employees, whether set by federal, state, or local law. Currently, the Florida minimum wage of $8.25 an hour is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, so you are entitled to at least the higher state wage.

Florida employers must pay employees time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. If you fit into an exception to the overtime laws (for example, because you are a salaried manager as defined by the law), you are an exempt employee, which means you are not eligible for overtime.

To learn more about Florida wage and hour laws, visit the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. You can find out more about the FLSA from the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor.

Florida Laws Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment

Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not make job decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin. Additional laws prohibit discrimination based on age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws (for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees must comply with the law). Employers may not discriminate in any part of the employment relationship, from interview questions and job postings to hiring, promotions, pay and benefits, time off, discipline, and firing. For detailed information on federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Laws Enforced by the EEOC.

Florida law protects employees from discrimination based on all of these traits, as well as sickle cell trait and marital status. Florida employers must comply with these laws if they have at least 15 employees. To file a complaint or learn more about Florida’s laws prohibiting discrimination, visit the website of the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

Harassment is a form of discrimination, and it’s also illegal under these laws. Legally, harassment is defined as unwelcome comments or actions, based on these characteristics (for example, sex or disability), that create a hostile or offensive working environment or that the victim must put up with as a condition of employment. Sexual harassment – often in the form of unwanted advances, touching, sexual comments, pornography, and so on – is the most familiar type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on race, age, and other protected traits.

If you complain about workplace harassment or discrimination, you are protected from retaliation. Your employer may not discipline, fire, or take other negative action against you because you complain within the company, to a government agency (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Florida Commission on Human Relations), or in a lawsuit.

Time Off Work in Florida

Many employers offer their employees leave with pay, in the form of sick days, vacation time, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits. Although a handful of states require employers to give employees paid sick days, neither Florida nor federal law requires employers to offer any paid leave benefits.

However, employers are required to offer unpaid leave in some situations, including:

  • Family and medical leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with at least 50 employees to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for illness and caregiving, and sometimes longer. While you are on FMLA leave, your employer must continue your benefits. You have the right to be reinstated when your leave is through.
  • Domestic violence leave. Florida law requires employers with at least 50 employees to give employees up to three days off per year to handle certain matters arising from domestic violence against themselves or their family members. Employees may take time off to seek medical care, get legal help, or relocate, for example.
  • Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Florida law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees must be reinstated after their leave, and may not be discriminated against based on their service. In Florida, employees who are called to state active duty have similar rights.
  • Jury duty. Florida employers must also allow employees to take unpaid time off work for jury service, and may not threaten or fire an employee who is called for jury duty.

Workplace Safety and Injuries

Employees have the right to a safe workplace, free of known dangers. Employers must offer safe, healthy working conditions and perform the safety training required for their industry. Should a complaint arise, employees have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety inspection. It is illegal for employers to fire, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against employees who complain of unsafe or hazardous working conditions.

If you are injured on the job, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Florida employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp provides you with a percentage of your usual earnings, pays for necessary medical treatment, and provides vocational rehabilitation and other benefits.

Leaving Your Job in Florida

Florida employees generally work at will. This means they can quit at any time, and can be fired at any time, for any reason that is not illegal. However, even at-will employees may not be fired for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. You may not be fired, for example, for complaining about workplace hazards, discrimination, or wage and hour violations.

If you are laid off or otherwise become unemployed through no fault of your own (that is, you don’t voluntarily quit your job and you are not fired for serious misconduct), you will likely be eligible for unemployment benefits in Florida. You must meet certain eligibility requirements, including a minimum earnings requirement. You must also look for work actively to continue receiving benefits. If you are eligible, you will receive a percentage of your previous earnings for 12 to 23 weeks (the exact length of your claim depends on the current Florida unemployment rate) while you are looking for a new job.

A federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives you the right to continue your health insurance coverage after your employment ends. You must pay the full premium (including whatever portion your employer used to pay). You can continue these benefits for 18 to 36 months, depending on your situation and whether you have dependents.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

If you believe your employer has violated your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Florida employment lawyer.

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