Employment Lawyer in St. Petersburg
Serving You and The State of Florida
Under the Florida Minimum Wage Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act you have a right to earn a minimum wage for your work.
Minimum Wage Laws
In Florida, there are minimum wage laws that employers have to follow when paying their employees. Currently, Florida is required to pay employees a minimum wage of $8.56 an hour. This requirement is found in Florida’s Constitution and is evaluated on a yearly basis. If there are changes that will occur to the minimum wage requirements, they will be determined by September 30 of the year and go into effect on January 1st of the next year. In addition to Florida state minimum wages, there are also Federal minimum wages which need to be adhered to. Currently the Federal minimum wage is set at $7,25 an hour. If there is an employer who wishes to pay minimum wage, usually employers will need to pay the Florida state minimum wage requirements as that would be the higher of the two.
Overtime laws in the state of Florida are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers who are covered under this Act must pay employees one and a half times what they would normally make for any time they work above and beyond their regular 40-hour work week. Many people believe that it is against the law for an employer to require an employee to work more than 40 hours a week. This is not true; they simply have to pay you accordingly if they are requiring you to work beyond that initial 40 hours.
So, with that being said, if you work any time that exceeds 40 hours in a single work week, you are legally owed overtime wages. That equates to one and a half times your hourly wage. All of your work hours must always be compensated. That is the law.
For example, if your employer requires you to be at work at 8:45 but your shift does not start until 9:00, they must pay you for that time. It doesn’t matter whether you have clocked in or not. This is why we have employment law and why there are attorneys that specialize in protecting the rights of working people just like you.
A large number of cases involve overtime wages. It is one of the biggest violations that employees overlook. People often do not speak out for fear of retribution or losing their job. Then when they finally leave a position, it dawns on them they are owed in the thousands for lost time and wages.
There are many cases when people may not even realize they are being cheated out of justly earned wages. This can include scenarios such as:
- You are wrongly classified as a manager or other position that does not pay overtime.
- Your employer ignores overtime requirements to save money.
- Your employer misinterprets the law or is unaware of any overtime requirements.
In all three cases, it is critical you have the right type of representation to ensure you are paid the wages you deserve. Lopez Law Group will pursue every case to the fullest extent of the law, including a trial when necessary.
Employers are forbidden from discriminating against an employee during hiring or while employed on the basis of the following:
- National Origin
- Citizenship Status
- Genetic Information
Florida also adds marital status, AIDS/HIV and sickle cell trait to the list of things that an employer cannot use to discriminate. If you feel like your employer has been discriminating against you based on any of the preceding, you may be able to take action against the employer. If you work for a company which has 15 or more employees, you may be able to sue for discrimination. There are some exceptions to this, such as if you are suing for age discrimination, there must be 20 or more employees. If you are suing for citizenship status discrimination, there must be 4 or more employees.
You must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and give them a chance to investigate. If they decide that you are indeed being discriminated against, they will give you a right to sue letter which you can use against your employer. Our attorneys can help you with this process. In Florida, the Commission on Human Relations enforces state antidiscrimination laws. Your employer may respond and give reasons for your discrimination which are not related to discrimination, but these may simply be a pretext for the actual reason. Having an attorney who understands this can go a long way in proving your potential case.
In addition to wage disputes, employment law also covers instances of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Both state and federal laws protect Florida workers from any unlawful discrimination and harassment at their place of employment. All forms of sexual harassment are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act considers sexual harassment to be any act which interferes with an individual’s ability to perform in the workplace. Sexual harassment creates what is called a hostile work environment. In order to fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the employer must have at least 15 employees. This does not mean that if there are less than 15 employees you do not have a claim, however. There are many state and local laws which may come into play to help assist with sexual harassment claims in the workplace. However, there is a specific process you must go through to ensure that your claim is heard.
In a Florida sexual harassment lawsuit, you must prove the conduct was unwelcome and you did not participate willingly. If all talks fail to stop the unwanted actions, a grievance must be filed with your work. It must be proven that the company knew of the situation and failed to do anything. Sexual harassment claims usually occur when someone in a position of power promises workplace improvement in exchange for the sexual actions. This is known as Quid Pro Quo. If an employer threatens to fire you or demote you for failing to go along with the requests, this is also evidence that can be used. Bringing suit against an employer for any of these actions can be very challenging, which is why it is critical you have the right representation by your side.
Sexual harassment statistics show that of all the women in the workplace who experience harassment, actually less than one third of those will report the harassment to the appropriate agency. When it comes to the industries which have the highest amounts of sexual discrimination, the food industry and those companies who are in the hospitality industry report the highest amounts. Education related jobs and jobs in the medical field actually have the lowest amounts of sexual harassment. A majority of cases reported indicate that verbal sexual harassment was the issue, whereas a smaller number actually report physical touching or other advances.
Florida is what is known as an at-will state when it comes to employment. This means that an employer can usually terminate an employee for any reason, so long as it does not violate their rights. This means that an employer cannot terminate someone for any of the following:
- Discrimination- An employer, as stated above, cannot terminate you because of your race, age, sex, pregnancy, national origin, marital status, religion or disability. If you can find employees who work in the same company who were treated differently and they are in a different category, that will help your case. If you can also identify people in your company who are in the same class as you and who were treated similarly, that would be beneficial.
- Reporting Discrimination- you cannot be terminated if you reported violations regarding discrimination to the appropriate authorities.
- Refusing to participate in discriminatory practices- you could be considered a whistleblower if your company has 10 or more employees. You cannot be terminated for refusing to take part in these practices.
- Initiating a Workers Compensation Claim– if you make a claim against an employer because of an injury that took place at work, you cannot be terminated for exercising this right.
- Taking a leave of absence for medical illness- as long as you have been at the current company for more than 12 months, and your employer has more than 50 employees, you could have a potential claim under what is known as the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Overtime issues- if you object to not being paid for overtime that you are rightly owed and you are let go as a result, you may have a claim against the employer.
- Testifying in court against your employer- you cannot be terminated for testifying against your employer in court if you did so under a subpoena.
- Being pregnant- the basis of you being let go by your employer cannot be because you are pregnant or because you recently had children.
- Being over the age of 40- if you were laid off because you are over the age of 40, that would be age discrimination, and if proven, you may have a claim against the employer.
The attorneys at The Lopez Law Group stand ready to assist you with any employment law related issues you may be having. Whether you are an employee who is having issues with management, or an employer who is having issues with an employee, we stand ready to assist. We can be reached at 727-933-0015. During our consultations, we will be able to advise you as to your rights and whether you may have a valid claim under both State and Federal laws. Give us a call and contact us today
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