Frequently Asked Questions About Employment Law
If you have an employment law question, you are certainly not alone. Many workers in the Tampa, FL, area grapple with issues related to discrimination, wage concerns, and more. The experienced Tampa employment attorneys at Feldman Legal Group hear a number of common questions from clients and prospective clients. Below are some of our employment law FAQs, along with brief answers.
First, it’s important to note: If you have an urgent employment problem, it is always best to speak to a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to call our firm. We are dedicated to helping workers seek justice under the law. We offer a free case assessment.
I was fired. How can I tell if it’s a wrongful termination?
Florida is an “at will” state, which means business owners are free to fire workers without obligation to show “just cause.”However, there remain many circumstances in which an employee is unlawfully fired. Generally, if you were let go because of a medical condition or because of your race/nationality, gender, age, or religion, this may be a wrongful termination case. This is also true if you were fired after complaining about wage violations or other illegal or unsafe activity at work.
What if I felt I had no choice but to quit my job?
If you are pressured to resign or if unlawful treatment at work was so intolerable you felt forced to quit, this may be considered “constructive discharge.” The law treats victims of constructive discharge similarly to wrongful termination in qualifying cases.
Can they let me go while I’m out on pregnancy leave?
You have a right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave while you are pregnant or caring for a newborn. If your employer terminates your employment or refuses to offer you an equivalent job when you return, you may have a strong wrongful termination case based in pregnancy discrimination.
How do you prove wrongful termination?
In the best case scenario, an employee has documented the events that led up to his or her termination. Saved messages, reviews and write-ups, computer files and photos are all helpful in proving wrongful termination. Witness statements can also be important (though not imperative) to the success of your case.
Harassment and Discrimination
Do racial jokes by coworkers count as discrimination?
Yes, if you are a minority and are subjected to offensive jokes and comments, this is a form of harassment based in racial discrimination. You should be able to get relief by reporting the behavior to your boss, but if the conduct continues or involves your supervisor, you may have a case.
My boss doesn’t respect me because I’m younger than him. Is this age discrimination?
No, not under the law. Age discrimination, according to the federal government, targets people who are 40 or over. Workers 40+ who are denied opportunities or are harassed for age-related reasons may be victims of discrimination.
What counts as sexual harassment?
This form of gender discrimination can affect both male and female workers. Sexual harassment includes unwanted touching, use of explicit language, romantic overtures by a supervisor or coworker, inappropriate comments about your appearance, etc. It can also be sexual harassment if you are subjected to adversity because of the sexual relationship of another couple at work.
Can I be demoted for having too many doctor’s appointments?
It is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because of a disability or health condition requiring medical attention. Discrimination can include cutting your hours or wages or demoting you to a lesser position.
Wage and Overtime Disputes
What if my company is making me an “exempt” employee just to avoid paying me overtime?
There are specific parameters that define an exempt (non-hourly) employee. If you are purposefully misclassified to allow your employer to avoid paying overtime, you may be owed up to three years of back wages. Note: Even some salaried employees are still eligible for overtime pay.
How can I recover back pay when I can’t afford to hire a lawyer?
You can receive help from the Department of Labor at no cost to you. However, you should know that a successful wage and hour case typically includes reimbursement of your attorneys’ fees in addition to recovery of back wages and additional legal damages.
Does my boss have to pay me minimum wage if I work part-time?
Yes, all employees in Florida must be paid $8.25 an hour, with a few exceptions such as workers who receive tips (see below). Other exceptions are teenagers, farm workers, seasonal employees, and babysitters. If you are a student or under 20, you must be paid minimum wage after 90 days of work.
What is the wage law for waiters/waitresses?
For service employees, the employer must ensure you receive minimum wage through a combination of a base wage and tips. In Florida, you must receive $5.23 an hour, with “tip credit” of $3.02 to bring you up to the minimum wage of $8.25. If you are earning less, the employer is obligated to make up the difference.
Can a restaurant make me share my server tips in a tip pool?
Yes, federal and Florida law allow for tip pooling, where employees chip in to share tips with other workers. However, you must be given advance notice of the pool, you must take home at least the Florida minimum wage, and the employer may not pocket any tip money from the pool.