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Broward County Employment Law Blog

4 women file sexual harassment lawsuit against restaurant owner

The lives of female employees in Florida and other states can be made extremely unpleasant if they are exposed to inappropriate actions by male colleagues and bosses. Some women endure sexual harassment in the workplace, and some quit their jobs to escape it. When one person has the courage to take action, it is not uncommon for more victims to do the same.

Four women who were employed by a restaurant in another state decided that enough was enough and filed sexual harassment claims against their boss. The defendants in the claims are the restaurant and its owner. The plaintiffs allege the owner of the restaurant has inappropriately groped, touched and massaged female employees for years.

Retaliation: Dismissal of Roger Ailes not the typical result

Recently, former news anchor Gretchen Carlson received a $20 million settlement with Fox News along with an apology; moreover, Fox CEO, Roger Ailes, the man who caused her dismissal, resigned. The result of this employment law dispute is far from typical. One commentator noted that governments and private corporations nationwide, including in Florida, seldom punish managers who mistreat employees. Retaliation has apparently overtaken race discrimination as the most prevalent claim filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sadly, a significant number of workers stay in jobs in which they are victims of bullying and retaliation because they need the money. Retaliation accounts for nearly half of all EEOC complaints and often involves whistleblowing workers or those who file complaints about discrimination. Even employees participating in investigations related to employment discrimination are sometimes bullied. Firing, demoting, harassing or any other form of retaliation against employees are illegal labor practices.

News anchor claims alcoholism led to wrongful termination

Whether in Florida or another state, all employees have the right to work in an environment free from discrimination. A former employee of a television station in another state recently filed a lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit alleges wrongful termination and discrimination based partly on her problem with alcoholism. She claims that victims of alcoholism are protected under state and federal law. Further allegations include a substantial list of violations of the labor code, including privacy violations.

Court documents indicate that the 51-year-old former news anchor was arrested for DUI arrests on two occasions, leading to a demotion and, ultimately, to her dismissal. It is alleged that, after the first arrest, her employers ordered her to sign an agreement as her last chance to warn her that another arrest may lead to termination. This included consent to subject her to random alcohol and drug testing, the results of which the news station would have access. This gave rise to her claim to invasion of privacy.

Unpaid overtime claims by nurses may lead to class action lawsuit

It is not uncommon for healthcare workers in Florida and other states to have administrative duties at the end of their shifts. In many cases, these workers tend to patients throughout their shifts, leaving no time to record the necessary notes prior to going off duty. Sadly, the extra time spent on those duties are seldom recognized by employers. This oversight often leads to unpaid overtime claims.

A former employee of an elder care facility in another state recently filed a lawsuit against her employers, alleging their failure to remunerate her for extra hours worked. The nurse claims to have regularly worked without taking breaks and working beyond the end of her shift. She says the additional hours were required for completing essential administrative tasks because there was no time to complete them during her shift.

Fast food companies found guilty of wage and hour law violations

Employees of several national fast food companies are reportedly finding support in the county's courts, including some in Florida. Multiple claims related to wage and hour law violations have been filed against McDonald's, Chipotle, Papa John and others. The charges included wage theft, discrimination and worker intimidation.

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board found that the workplace policies of Chipotle were illegal after an employee alleged he was fired about social media entries he made. The employer claimed the worker's tweets were disparaging, and his claims that workers were not allowed to take required breaks were false. Chipotle was ordered by the NLRB to reinstate the employee and pay restitution of lost wages.

There are legal remedies to address wrongful termination

Florida is considered an "at will" employment state. This typically means that employees and employers can terminate an employment whenever they want and without designating a specific reason. While an employer needs no particular reason for the dismissal of a worker, the termination cannot be an act of retaliation or discrimination. If the reason for dismissal is illegal, the victim may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit against the employer.

An employment contract can be a written or implied agreement between an employer and an employee. When an employee is discharged by an employer in violation of the agreed upon employment contract, a breach of contract has taken place. There are legal remedies to address such violations.

Sexual harassment by Safeway customer leads to lawsuit

Being exposed to any type of harassment at work can cause high levels of stress that can even affect a person's home life. Fortunately, perpetrators of unacceptable behavior, such as sexual harassment, can be held accountable under the laws protecting workers nationwide, including in Florida. Safeway supermarket was sued by an employee who was sexually harassed by a male customer to the point she resigned to escape the man.

According to the court documents, a particular male customer of the supermarket regularly made vulgar remarks about her appearance with specific perverted comments about her breasts. She alleged the man even expressed his desire to touch her breasts. The worker contends her efforts to ignore the remarks and avoid contact with the customer were to no avail.

Court of appeals orders jury to decide about unpaid overtime

Employers in Florida and elsewhere may not ignore overtime by claiming that they were not aware of it. An employee of a trucking company in another state filed a lawsuit against her employer claiming back pay for unpaid overtime hours which were remunerated at the normal rate. The federal district court dismissed the claims finding that the company did not know of the overtime hours worked. The employee filed an appeal.

The complaint of the company's former bookkeeper states that her responsibilities included timesheet processing of her own hours and those of other employees. Along with a summary of the payroll, the timesheets would then be handed to the owner of the company. The plaintiff asserts that she regularly worked more than the 40 hours of a normal workweek. However, her employer allegedly paid all her hours at the normal rate.

Hewlett-Packard accused of age-related workplace discrimination

When companies in Florida and other states announce a plan to restructure, it often involves laying off older workers to replace them with others much younger. Workplace discrimination is prohibited, and workers older than 40 are protected under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Hewlett-Packard is facing a lawsuit alleging such violations.

Class-action status is sought by four former HP employees who filed the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that the high-tech company is purging older employees as part of its restructuring. The company apparently announced a five-year plan of restructuring in 2012, and it is reported that it had since terminated the employ of 80,000 employees.

Bullying is a violation of employee rights and may bring lawsuits

Bullying employees seems to be an increasing occurrence at workplaces in Florida and other states. Although employee rights are there to protect workers against all types of employment law violations, statistics suggest that more than a third of American workers are victims of workplace bullying. Sadly, not all understand the devious ways of bullies, and victims are often seen as unable to cope with common workplace pressure.

What is alarming is the fact that it is often supervisors and managers who subject employees to belittling or offensive comments and humiliation in front of coworkers. Physical abuse even takes place in some extreme cases, but perpetrators are usually devious enough to make sure that their actions are within the standard practices of their companies. Victims are often given the impression that they deserve the actions against them.

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