What are Florida Labor Laws?

Florida Labor Laws are a sum of many different laws, including Florida statutes and Federal laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). These laws set rules for wage and hour protections as well as protect against harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Florida Labor Laws – Wage and Hour: Minimum Wage

Workers have a right to receive a minimum wage at the highest amount set by local, state or federal law depending on the location of their employment. As of January 1, 2014, all employers in the country have to pay a minimum wage of $7.25; however, Florida employers are required to pay the higher minimum wage in Florida which is $7.94 per hour.

Although an employee has an hourly rate greater than the minimum wage, the FLSA can be violated if the employee is not paid for all of his hours worked and therefore, his real hourly rate drops below the minimum wage. The two most common instances of this are:

  • Employees being required to finish a project by a deadline “off the clock.”
  • Employee works through lunch and other breaks but is still shown on the clock as having taken this time off.

Florida Labor Laws – Wage and Hour: Meals and Breaks

Under Florida labor laws, for employees aged 18 and under, employers have to grant an unpaid meal period of 30 minutes or more for each 4 consecutive hours of work. There is no such rule for employees who are 18 and older. In fact, there are neither Florida laws nor federal laws which require an employer to provide a meal break. However, in Florida, it is customary for employers to give full-time employees at least a 30 minute lunch break. Under Florida law, these breaks are not required to be paid lunch breaks so long as there are no restrictions on the employee’s activities during this time. Since these breaks are unpaid and not viewed as time working, there is no federal policy with regard to meal breaks. Employees are entitled to short breaks, typically shorter than twenty minutes, for snacks, coffee, or a quick meal. These breaks are required to be paid. Wage and hour regulations regarding overtime may be triggered by breaks in those cases when the breaks result in longer required working hours.

Although not required by federal law, several states have laws requiring employers to allow lunch breaks for their employees. These are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Washington, D.C.
  • West Virginia

Florida Labor Laws – Wage and Hour: Overtime

There is no Florida law regarding overtime but federal laws do apply. Under the FLSA, employees who are not exempt are required to be paid “time and a half” for any hours worked in a week over 40. Some employees are exempt from the overtime requirements. The most common example of an exempt employee are salaried managers.

Employers commonly violate the overtime laws. Employers are encouraged to seek the advice of an employment lawyer to decide which employees are due overtime pay. If the employer does not hire an attorney, the employee often will.

Florida Labor Laws – Wage and Hour: Severance Pay

Severance pay is a benefit for many employees in Florida, but labor laws in Florida do not require a severance package. If provided, the employer must insure that it complies with employment contracts and company policy.

Florida Laws Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination because of race, religion, national origin, and gender. There are other laws which protect employees against age discrimination if the employee is 40 years of age or older. Still other laws prohibit employers from basing decisions on disability or genetic information. Not all employers are subject to these laws. For age discrimination laws to apply, the employer must have 20 or more employees. Other protections apply to employers with 15 or more employees. These laws apply not just to the employment relationship, but also prior such as job postings and interviews. The laws protect employees from being treated differently based on the protected classes in advancement, salary and fringe benefit, hours worked, discipline and termination.

In addition to federal laws on employment, Florida also prohibits discrimination based on marital status and having the presence of sickle cell trait. Florida employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these anti-discrimination laws.

Discrimination often manifests itself in harassment which is the unwelcome act or speech, targeting employees because of the certain protected characteristic (age, sex, race, national origin) and which creates an environment which is offensive and hostile to the employee or for which the employee is subjected to as a condition of his employment. Like discrimination, harassment is illegal under federal and state law.

Sexual harassment is most common. This harassment usually takes the form of unwanted flirting, touching, obscene pictures, comments and dirty jokes. Other forms of harassment may stem from race and age. However, isolated incidents or petty aggravation will not rise to an actionable harassment claim.

In addition to being protected from the harassment itself, labor laws provide protection to employers against retaliation or other negative treatment such as discipline or loss of employment for complaining about harassment or cooperating with a harassment investigation by government agencies.

Time Off Work in Florida

The prevalence of paid time off benefits in the form of paid leave, paid sick days, paid vacations days, and holidays are such that people are surprised that neither Florida labor laws nor federal statutes require employers to provide this perk. There are however a few states that do require employers to provide paid time off for sick days.

Family and medical leave

Though there are no federal requirements for employers to provide paid sick leave, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law applicable to employers with 50 or more employees which requires the employer to provide employees a period of time up to twelve weeks of unpaid time off work each calendar year due to sickness or caring for a newborn, foster or newly adopted child, spouse or a parent someone with a serious health condition. Although this time off is unpaid, any health insurance benefits remain in place. Additionally your job is secured and you must be reinstated when you return to work at the end of FMLA leave. Caregiving protected by the FLMA also includes care for spouse, child, or parent who is a service member and has a qualifying condition.

Domestic violence leave

Florida law has “domestic violence leave” allowing employees to take up to 3 days off per calendar year to consult an attorney, seek medical treatment or relocation. This requirement applies to employers who hire 50 or more employees.

Military leave

Servicemembers are allowed to be absent from work in order to participate in military service in the armed forces reserves of state national guard. This leave is provided for and protected by both Florida law and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a federal statute. Servicemember employees must not be discriminated against because of their service and must be reinstated to their job upon returning to work.

Jury duty

Paid time off for jury service is another employment leave benefit which requires employers to all unpaid time off work for employees to report to jury duty.

Workplace Safety and Injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a federal law that requires employers to maintain a safe workplace, which requires among other things, healthy work conditions and safety training specific to the employer’s industry. Part of this law established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which perform safety inspections and responds to employee complaints. Employees who complain about work conditions cannot be disciplined, fired, or discriminated against because of the complaints. Common protections afforded by the Occupational Safety and Health Act include:

  • Employee right to disclosure and instruction on dangers they will potentially face in the workplace
  • Provision of personal protective equipment to employees and training on its use
  • Availability of records of work-related injuries which must be maintained by the employer
  • Protection against retaliation for disclosing workplace safety issues.

Though not directly related to OSHA, another protection available to employees is worker’s compensation. Under Florida law, most employers are required to provide insurance coverage for workplace injuries. Under worker’s compensation laws, employees injured on the job are entitled to receive a percentage of wages, medical treatment, and other benefits.

The benefit to employers of having these laws is a more productive workforce when overwhelming concerns for safety are alleviated.

Leaving Your Job in Florida

If you lose your job because of a layoff or other reason not caused by fault on your part, unemployment benefits will likely be available. If eligible, unemployment benefits will provide payment of a percentage of your prior wages. These payments will last for a period of time from 12 to 23 weeks as long you are actively seeking new employment.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows displaced workers to maintain their previously held group health insurance coverage for 18 to 36 months after terminating employment. However, the employee will have to pay the insurance premium including the employer’s part.

Common Violations of Labor Laws

Misclassification

Misclassification is when an employer for record-keeping and payment purposes designates a person as an independent contractor, when in actuality the person is really acting as an employee. This is often done to try to avoid overtime requirements and tax withholdings. There is a very specific legal test to determine whether one is truly an independent contractor subject to a 1099 versus payroll and failing this test would be a violation of labor laws.

Failure to Maintain Records

Records regarding pay and time worked are required and can be difficult. However, without proper records, an employer will be unable to properly defend against claims of violations of labor laws.

Off The Clock Work

The FLSA requires employers to pay a minimum wage as well as overtime for any hours worked over 40 in a week. Employers sometimes pressure their employees to work “off the clock” to avoid these requirements.

Illegal Deductions

Some employers errantly think that they can make up for cash register shortages, mistakes on order requiring a re-make, accepting a counterfeit bill or bad check, or other losses to company revenue attributable to an employee, by deducting restitution for these items from the employee’s paycheck. This is a violation of labor laws.

Retaliation

An employee has a right to report violations of federal and Florida labor laws and employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee who does this in good faith.

No Discrimination in Hiring Process

In addition to protection for employees, applicants for employment are similarly protected by these same labor laws. It is against the law to:

  • Discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (Civil Rights Act of 1964)
  • Pay men and women differently for performing the same job (Equal Pay Act of 1963)
  • Discriminate against older applicants (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967)
  • Refuse to hire a disabled worker because of his disability if otherwise meeting all job requirements (American with Disabilities Act of 1990)
  • Discriminate based on someone’s DNA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008)

No Drug Tests Against Applicant’s Will

Other restrictions against employers are that job applicants cannot be forced to have a drug test. However, employers may condition employment on passing a drug test. While the employee is not forced to consent to the test, his failure to do so can result in not being offered a job.

At-Will Employment

Employment under Florida law is “at-will” meaning the employee may terminate his employment at any time and the employer may also terminate employment at any time so long as the reason for termination is not for one of the legally protected characteristics such as race, age, sex, etc.

Rights of Same-Sex Couples

A new issue on the frontier of labor laws in Florida as well as the rest of the country concerns protections for same-sex couples. Many local jurisdictions have already established protections based on sexual orientation. In those jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriages, the protections of the FMLA regarding spouses would apply just as with heterosexual unions.

Since this is a relatively fluid issue currently, employees with same-sex partners should definitely seek out the services of a competent employment attorney.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Since there are so many different federal and state laws that apply to the workplace, if you have questions or feel that your rights as an employee have been violated, you should contact an attorney experience with labor and employment laws and litigation.

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