From before they're hired to after they leave, workers in the United States are protected by state and federal laws. Here's what workers need to know in Florida.
Laws that prohibit discrimination come into play as soon as the position is advertised. Employers cannot say they would prefer a man or woman and, with the exception of jobs where age is a legal issue such as bartending, they can't make age a requirement.
The same laws apply during job interviews, and employers can't ask if an applicant is married or has children.
Florida's minimum wage is $7.79 an hour for most employees, as of January 2013; it is $4.77 for workers who receive at least $30 in tips a month, though employers must make up the difference if workers bring in less than the minimum wage after tips. Non-salaried workers fall under federal law that requires time-and-a-half pay for more than 40 hours worked each week.
On the Job
Employers must keep job sites safe and free from known hazards. Laws cover everything from hazardous chemicals to protection while using potentially dangerous equipment. Employers also are prohibited from retaliating against workers who report problems.
Workers who are injured on the job usually can receive workers' compensation payments. The length of time they're paid depends on the severity of the injury, and the amount is based on their pay at the time of the injury. Workers' compensation insurance also covers medical treatment needed to recover and return to work. In Florida, all construction companies with even one employee and other companies with four or more employees are required to carry workers' compensation insurance.
Employers don't have to let employees take vacation time or holidays, though many offer it as a benefit. Employees are not required to offer sick leave, though under federal law, companies with 50 or more employees must offer unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Floridians are not eligible for paid time off for jury duty, but neither can they be fired if they serve on a jury.
Any form of harassment—unwelcome conduct based on gender, race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability—is illegal. An employee can complain or even take legal action if the harassment is a condition of employment or is offensive enough that a reasonable person would object.
Leaving the job
Florida is an "at will" state, so lacking a contract, a worker can quit for any reason or the employer can terminat the worker without cause. But employees cannot be fired for discriminatory reasons. Employees who leave a job for any reason must receive their final checks on the next payday.
Benefits After You Leave
Workers who are laid off or fired can collect unemployment insurance unless they were terminated for misconduct. The amount of unemployment payments depends on how much you worked in the past year and how much you were paid. Under federal law, employees can continue their group health insurance if they worked for a company with more than 20 employees, though they'll have to pay the full amount of the premium.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney
Employment law is a complicated issue, and this article is intended only as a general overview. For specific questions, consult a local labor and employment attorney in Florida.