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Florida Labor & Employment Attorneys > Frequently Asked Questions

Florida Employment Law Frequently Asked Questions

General Employment Questions

Sexual Harassment Questions

Contract Questions

Should I File a Lawsuit Against My Employer?

Deciding whether or not you should file a lawsuit against your employer can be tricky. If you’ve been treated poorly, you should work to see that you find justice. Consulting with an attorney can help you decide whether or not you should file a lawsuit against your employer.

What should you do?

HandshakeThere are many considerations that go into making this decision about proceeding with litigation. There are some situations where an individual may come in with a claim, and there are pre‑requisites that may be required, before an individual is able to proceed with litigation. During that pre‑requisite stage, the employee has the opportunity to resolve their case and decide whether or not to go into litigation.

Sometimes litigation is a matter of being the last resort. There are many opportunities that the employer may have through representation with an attorney to try to resolve their case without the necessity of litigation.

Call an employment law attorney

The answer depends on the situation. It varies, case by case, so an attorney will have to complete an analysis of the situation as to whether or not it could be resolved pre-litigation. Other factors would include the financial situation of the individual, in addition to the strength of the facts of the case. It’s important that there is evidence of the poor treatment or inequality so that an attorney can fight on your behalf.

Litigation can be expensive, and that’s something an employee should consider when planning to move forward. An experienced employee discrimination attorney will help you uncover the strongest options for litigation or if you would be successful resolving the case pre‑litigation.

If you’ve been treated poorly or been discriminated against in the workplace, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Scott Wagner and Associates, P.A. Our team is here to help. Call us today at (561) 439-6372.

What are my most basic rights as an employee in the state of Florida?

To be frank, Florida has horrible laws for employees. As an employee in the state of Florida, you have very basic rights. One of those rights is against discrimination in the workplace based on protected traits.

Scott Wagner Protected Traits

What are protected traits?

Protected traits are national origin, gender, disability, age, religion, or sexual orientation, among other traits. Under Florida law, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on those protected traits, beginning with the application process.

Prospective employees have these same rights as current employees. In general, if an employer makes an employment decision based on a protected trait, the employee—prospective or current—may have a lawsuit against said employer.

Whether or not that employee or employer is covered under the law depends on certain things, such as the number of employees of the company and the location of the company. Some smaller, privately held companies do not have the same regulations as larger, public companies. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible.

We understand how you may feel if you have been treated poorly by an employer or prospective employer. The attorneys at Scott Wagner and Associates, P.A. can help you if you’ve been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against in the workplace. Contact us today.

How do I know if I’ve been sexually harassed?

Sexual HarassmentWe often receive inquiries from both women and men who simply don’t know if they have a sexual harassment claim or not. If something just does not feel right about how your co-worker/supervisor/employer is behaving with or around you, then you are probably right. It is best to seek legal advice from an employment attorney who can advise you of the law and the best ways to protect your rights.

Yes, it’s important that you know your company’s harassment policy. This is just as important—if not more—as knowing what the law says. Your company may have a stricter policy about harassment than is even provided under the law.

The more technical answer? Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favors. It can also be any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited by federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for all companies with 15 or more employees.

There are two types of harassment:

  1. Quid pro quo refers to any employment decision that is based on your submission to the harassment, such as a promotion, an assignment, or merely job retention.
  2. Hostile work environment refers to comments, touching, crude jokes or pictures—anything that makes you uncomfortable in the workplace or that interferes with your performance at work. Unwanted touching can also constitute a battery under Florida law.

No employee should condone sexual harassing treatment for fear of losing his or her job. You have rights, and it is important you understand those rights in order to best protect yourself against this sort of conduct, as well as to assert your rights for protection if you complain about these situations

When considering claims for sexual harassment in a lawsuit, courts may look to the number of times that the behavior has occurred, but repetition is not required for a claim of this nature. If something was severe or pervasive enough, it could constitute sexual harassment after the first time. It all just depends on the situation.

If you believe you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, contact one of our employment attorneys for counsel; we can help you to figure out a course of action. Click here for what to do next.

Do I have to file a complaint with my employer or my HR department

Stop SignWe know those employees who suffer a sexual harassment situation in the workplace may be eager to proceed with immediately filing a lawsuit. However, under Florida and Federal law, there are steps you must first take before you can get to the point of filing a lawsuit. Sometimes, by taking these steps, you may actually succeed at stopping the harassing behavior without the need for further legal action.

So what is your first step? Generally speaking, the first step is to address the harasser. You must make it clear to him or her that his or her behavior is unwanted and that it should stop. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, it may be a good idea to consult with Human Resources. Sometimes, your employee handbook may also dictate to whom you should take your complaints about harassment, and we recommend you consult with those terms to make sure you are following the right steps. For instance, in smaller companies without a Human Resources department, your supervisor may be the best person for your complaints.

If your employer does NOT have a harassment policy in place, or if it has not been sufficiently communicated to you and your co-workers, you should contact an employment attorney to determine the best steps to handle your concerns.

These two steps—lodging a timely complaint and reporting to the appropriate supervisor—are incredibly important stages that should not be bypassed. Also, this will set in motion the investigation—a key piece to your sexual harassment claim. Once you report your complaint, the Human Resource representative (or supervisor to whom you have reported) should begin to investigate by questioning you, the accused, any supervisors, and any witnesses there might be. He or she may look into any records, email accounts, and/or other forms of documentation.

If your situation does not improve, or if you do not feel confident that the harassment will stop, you may want to consider filing a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and/or the Florida Commission on Human Relations. An employment attorney can assist you in understanding how to comply with this important step in your claims. Please note that such complaints may be subject to a statute of limitations, so if you have concerns about harassment, you should not delay in seeking legal advice.

Can I sue for sexual harassment if there were no witnesses?

Red doorOftentimes, sexual harassment occurs behind closed doors. But just because there were no witnesses does not mean that all hope is lost. If the harassment is in the form of quid pro quo, where an employment decision is based on submission to a requested sexual favor or advance, there will very possibly be no other witnesses, as such requests are often made outside the presence of others. (Read more about how to tell if you have been sexually harassed here). But this doesn’t mean that you should give up.

First, it is important to bring your concerns to the attention of your Human Resources Department and/or supervisor. Once you report your complaint to your supervisor or the person who is delegated in your employer’s harassment policy, he or she should conduct an investigation of your claim.

As employment lawyers, we recommend that you consult an attorney so that you can know what to expect and reduce the number of surprises along the way. If, by chance, your company’s investigation was “inconclusive,” meaning that they were unable to uncover sufficient evidence to support your complaints, you may still have other options. A sexual harassment attorney can help you to identify these options.

Also, keep in mind that even if your harasser is found to be guilty, he or she may continue to be your colleague. The “punishments” vary, and could be anything from behavioral training to a department transfer. It is important that you voice to your employer or the investigator what your wishes are. What would you like to see happen as a result? Would you like to keep your job? By consulting legal help, you will feel better equipped when it comes to dealing with your employer.

If your situation does not improve, or if you do not feel confident that the harassment will stop, you may want to consider filing a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and/or the Florida Commission on Human Relations. An employment attorney can assist you in understanding how to comply with this important step in your claims. Please note that such complaints may be subject to a statute of limitations, so if you have concerns about harassment, you should not delay in seeking legal advice.

What is the best way to negotiate the terms of my employment contract?

There are many kinds of contracts that an employee may encounter during the period of employment. Examples of employment contracts are initial offer letters, certain employee handbooks, and severance/separation agreements. There are potential opportunities to negotiate the terms of an employment contract, depending on what those contracts are.

It’s always important to make sure that you specifically understand your obligations under these contracts that you may be required to sign. Your failure to understand them may not protect you in the event that you breach or violate those agreements.

Therefore, even if you’re not considering negotiating the terms of your employment contracts, it’s always a good idea to have your employment attorney review the terms of your contracts with you, to make sure that you understand exactly what’s required of you.

Scott Wagner Contracts

Should I negotiate without an attorney?

You should not attempt to negotiate without an attorney. Doing so could do more harm than good.

Let’s use a severance agreement as an example. This type of agreement is valid under Florida law, therefore there is a potential for negotiation. At the same time, however, you do run the risk of losing the opportunity for that severance because they are also not required under Florida law.

Severance agreements in Florida are like a gift from an employer, so even a dollar of severance may be a dollar more than what the employer is obligated to provide to you. We understand that you want to get as much out of your severance as possible, which may require negotiating the terms. However, you have to be careful that, in attempting to negotiate, you do not talk yourself out of a “gift” that your employer doesn’t have to give you in the first place.

Therefore, while there can be latitude for negotiating most contracts, it can be a slippery slope that is best handled with the guidance of an employment attorney. It’s important to know what rights you have in order to negotiate a contract so that you work within the confines of those rights. This way, you can make sure that you’re getting the best deal for yourself while also still getting the benefits of whatever contracts you may be offered.

For further questions about your employment matter, schedule a consultation with one of our Florida employment attorneys.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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