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Broward County Employment Law Blog

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.

Wage and hour law: Some disabled workers earn subminimum wages

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects individuals with physical challenges against wage discrimination. There are some loopholes that certain employers in Florida and elsewhere use to secure cheap labor. Workers whose physical or mental deficiencies make them less productive than others without disabilities can be paid at rates below minimum wage. Although special permits must be obtained, it is not uncommon for companies to violate wage and hour law by taking advantage of this law that enables them to remunerate workers at what is called the subminimum wage.

The subminimum wage level was intended to motivate companies in competitive industries, such as manufacturing, to employ physically challenged workers and provide training that would equip them with skills to help them earn an income. However, it has been reported that devious employers hire people with physical challenges under the guise of job training programs. This allows the companies to get the jobs done while paying subminimum wages.

Football coach claims discrimination based on religion

Regardless of the industry in which a person is employed, discrimination is not permitted in workplaces nationwide, including in Florida. This includes discrimination based on religion. An assistant football coach in another state has reportedly proceeded to take legal action against school officials who allegedly violated his religious beliefs.

The case reportedly arose from the assistant coach's habit of standing on the 50-yard line to offer a private prayer for the players' safety before and after every game. It apparently became a problem when school officials were made aware of the practice by another coach who was actually commending the assistant coach for his actions. In October, school officials warned the assistant coach to cease the prayers. However, after further consideration, it was decided to terminate his employment.

Wrongful termination follows dismissal of new mother

Female employees in Florida are sometimes hesitant to start families for fear of reprisal by their employers. Wrongful termination lawsuits following the dismissal of pregnant employees are not at all uncommon. Such a lawsuit was recently filed in another state by a woman alleging her employment was terminated while she was on maternity leave.

According to court documents, the plaintiff's employment with a coffee business commenced when she was appointed as a barista in 2003. She contends that later promotions saw her in a position in which she was managing multiple outlets, making her eligible for maternity leave. She claims to have been entitled to 12 workweeks of leave during the first year after the child's birth.

Workplace discrimination: Pregnant Chipotle worker gets $550,000

Florida women who goes through a pregnancy understand that this condition brings about many changes in their health and bodies that may require certain accommodations in their workplaces. Pregnant workers may find comfort in knowing that they are protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for pregnant employees to be the subject of workplace discrimination.

A jury in another state recently awarded $550,000 to a former Chipotle employee. The woman brought the lawsuit against the company, alleging discrimination by the store manager. The plaintiff claimed that the manager started treating her differently as soon as she informed him about her pregnancy.

Moving company accused of wage and hour law violations

It is not uncommon for employers nationwide, including those in Florida, to take advantage of their employees. Many workers endure wage and hour law violations because they fear dismissals or other types of workplace retaliation. However, in some cases, some victims have the courage to take legal actions that could ultimately lead to class action lawsuits that can address the financial and other damages they have suffered.

Four former employees and one current worker of a moving and storage company recently gathered the courage to take on the company in a lawsuit alleging unpaid overtime and refusal to pay part of their standard wages. The workers claim that their employer refused to pay wages for the time spent on preparations for the day's work. This included fueling and washing the trucks, along with driving to the destinations.

Deputy fire chief's wrongful termination claim will go to trial

Florida workers whose rights as employees are being violated may find that the alleged violators will do everything in their power to prevent a legal claim from going to court. A former deputy fire chief filed a complaint against the city that employed him, alleging wrongful termination. The city then reportedly tried to have the case thrown out of court, but its attempts were dismissed by a judge.

The case arose from an incident in 2014 when the deputy fire chief allegedly issued orders that were contrary to the wishes of the mayor. The orders involved a notice to the owners of two apartment buildings that failed to meet the requirements of the fire code. The mayor allegedly wanted him to overlook the code violations. When he went ahead and issued the orders, the chief was reportedly placed on leave.

Male workers support female colleagues in sexual harassment claim

Discrimination in Florida workplaces that is based on gender is as unacceptable as any other form of discrimination. A dried fruit processing company in another state was ordered to pay $1,470,000 in damages to a group of employees who reported sexual harassment and wrongful termination occasioned by retaliation to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This was reportedly the maximum amount of damages allowed by applicable laws.

According to court documents, some female employees were allegedly harassed by two male supervisors of the company. The court found that employment and promotions of the women were based on sexual favors demanded by the supervisors. Male colleagues of the harassed women reportedly also spoke up about the harassment endured of the females. The company then allegedly retaliated by terminating the employ of the men and women who lodged complaints.

What constitutes retaliatory discharge?

When employers in Florida take any kind of action against employees who filed complaints about their workers' rights, they may end up facing lawsuits that can cost their companies lots of money. It is not uncommon for retaliatory discharge or any other retaliation to lead to claims against company owners and supervisory staff members. Employees have the right to take legal action against businesses that do not have the proper procedures in place to prevent such action.  

Retaliation -- regardless of whether it leads to discharge -- is any adversarial measures taken by a company against a worker who filed a discrimination or harassment complaint. Such action can include the discharge of the worker or recording negative evaluations. Other actions can include demoting or disciplining the employee, reassignment or a reduction in pay.

There are remedies against wage and hour law violations

A Florida employer who fails or refuses to pay an employee for extra hours worked may regard the amount of money for a few overtime hours per week as insignificant. However, for the employee who is struggling financially, every bit of extra income can be vital. Fortunately, there is a wage and hour law in place that protects workers against being exploited.

Overtime must be paid for any hours exceeding 40 per week. The federal and state laws that protect workers also cover unlawful withholding of commissions and wages and failure to pay minimum wage. In some cases, employers will force employees to work off the clock -- this is also illegal. Workers are sometimes misclassified to allow an employer to pay them as independent contractors or exempt employees in industries such as construction, entertainment, travel and more.

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