Labor and Employment

Employers face a maze of state and federal laws impacting how they manage their workforce. We help our clients navigate that maze to get the most from their employees at the lowest cost.

Employment Litigation

If you believe your business may be sued by a past or current employee, or it already has been sued, contact us. We can advise you regarding your rights and responsibilities under the law, discuss the situation, fully investigate the matter and come up with legal options to best protect your interests. Employment matters can involve state and federal agencies and be filed in state or federal courts. We have the knowledge and experience to fully defend our clients in any employment matter no matter where the case is pending.

Human Resource Advising

Workforce management can be one of the most complex and important issues a company faces.  It is impacted by a number of state and federal laws and regulations.  Not all regulations apply, depending on the employer. Which ones do you need to be concerned with and which expensive aspects can you ignore? Contact us so we can discuss your business and employees and map out what is necessary for your business to comply with the applicable legal requirements. Violations can be very costly for employers and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Human Resource Document Authoring

We can help businesses create policies, procedures and handbooks for their employees.  These documents can be critical to informing employees of their responsibilities and obligations.  If done correctly, these documents may help prevent a lawsuit from being filed, or if not written properly, they can be Exhibit A in an employee or ex-employee’s lawsuit against your company. Contact us to make sure these documents have the proper language to protect your company’s interests.

Employment Contracts

If you manage a business, you may want to have all, or some, of your employees sign a contract.  We can discuss your goals and how to best reach them through contractual language.  We can make sure the language is legal and enforceable. If you’re an employee given a contract for you to sign, we can review the language with you and advise you of your rights and the laws applicable to you situation.  We can help you decide whether you should sign the contract or seek alternate language to better protect your interests.

Covenants Not To Compete

A covenant not to complete is normally a contract between a business and an employee or an independent contractor working for the business.  It’s an agreement where the person agrees not to compete with the business within a geographic area while under contract and over a period of time after that contract expires. It’s a way for a business to protect itself from future competition that may be created by those who are working for it.  Such agreements have legal limits.  Whether you want to create a covenant not to compete, or have been asked to sign one, contact us so we can review the language and discuss if it’s right for you or your business.

Employment Discrimination Law

If you’re an employee or former employee and you feel you’ve been the victim of illegal employment discrimination, or a company wishing to avoid or currently in the process of dealing with employment discrimination litigation, we can help. We represent parties in employment discrimination disputes before state and federal agencies and courts and have a wide range of experience in this area.  Federal and state law prohibit employment actions that discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), disability, age (40 and older in federal law), citizenship status (in federal law) and genetic information. State law adds protection based on marital status, sickle cell and HIV/AIDS status. It’s also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for seeking protection under civil rights laws or complaining of discrimination.  State and federal laws cover employers with fifteen or more employees, except the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act which requires twenty employees. These cases cover the entire span of a person’s relationship with an employer.  An employer cannot treat a person in a discriminatory way due to their protected status (such as their age, sex or race), including:
  • Refusal to hire someone, 
  • Imposing unequal terms and conditions of employment (number of hours, schedules, benefits), 
  • Subjecting them to lower rates of pay, 
  • Disciplining employees unequally, 
  • Denying a reasonable request for accommodation from a disabled employee, 
  • Harassing employees or allowing harassment to take place, or 
  • Terminating their employment.

Plaintiff Responsibilities
Plaintiffs have the burden of proving bias against their protected status was a motivation for the alleged illegal discrimination.  The evidence used is either direct evidence (evidence a decision maker talked or wrote about his/her bias toward the protected group) or indirect evidence (a pattern of treatment showing favoritism to one group and bias towards another). If there is evidence of discrimination against a large enough class of employees, some employment discrimination cases have been certified as class action cases, which can have nationwide impact on a major corporation. Successful plaintiffs can be awarded back pay, back benefits, job reinstatement, costs of litigation, attorney’s fees and damages due to emotional distress.  There are varying deadlines from the discriminatory act to file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Rights (365 days) and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (180 days). Some of the more common employment discrimination cases we handle include:

Racial discrimination
Racial discrimination is illegal under both federal and state law.  It includes racial harassment and retaliation for complaining of or reporting such harassment. Race discrimination cases have also been brought by people “associated” with a person of a certain race, even though they themselves are not of that race (such as a mixed race couple, where a Caucasian wife is fired after an employer learns she is married to an African American husband).

Age discrimination
Discrimination based on the age of a person (40 to 70 under federal law) is illegal. The laws are intended to prevent stereotypes of older workers from impacting a person’s employment.  An employer who feels an applicant or employee can’t do a job because of their age and denies an opportunity because of the person’s age, or terminates or lays off an older worker to “make room” for a younger employee is violating the law. With the economic downturn, older employees with longer tenure and higher pay are especially at risk for illegal discrimination.

Disability discrimination
If a job applicant or employee is disabled (they have a substantial impairment to a major life activity, a record of such an impairment or are perceived to have such an impairment, and they can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation) they cannot be discriminated against because of that disability.  If a disabled employee asks for a reasonable accommodation to his/her job (a change in duties or schedule, for example) that does not impose an undue hardship upon the employer, that request should be granted. Under the law, an employer can ask about an employee’s disability, as long as it’s related to determining if the person can perform the essential functions of the job and the necessity and scope of a requested accommodation. That information must be kept separate from the person’s regular personnel file.

Gender and pregnancy discrimination
It’s against state and federal law to discriminate against a job applicant or employee based on his/her gender.  This includes discrimination against women due to pregnancy. An employer interviewing for an opening, transfer or promotion cannot legally ask a candidate pregnancy related questions.  If an employee becomes pregnant and is temporarily unable to work, she must be treated as any other employee with a temporary disability.  Depending on the circumstances, the federal Family Medical Leave Act may apply, entitling her to twelve weeks of unpaid leave.

Sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is illegal under state and federal law, which applies to both men and women and is a form of gender discrimination.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment,
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals, or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
An employer may be responsible for the harassment of an employee by a supervisor or co-workers, depending on the circumstances.

Wrongful termination
Florida employees are protected by the state constitution and laws, as well as federal laws for wrongful termination. Generally, employers can fire employees for any or no reason, as long as the basis for the termination doesn’t violate the law.  For example, it would be illegal to fire an employee for trying to unionize an employer’s workforce, filing for workers compensation benefits or complaining of labor law violations, unsafe working conditions, environmental violations or alleged fraud carried out by the employer. Such a termination may be protected under “whistleblower” laws.

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