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Key Insights for Florida Employers in Labor and Employment Law

If you are an employer in Florida, you should be aware of several key labor and employment laws to ensure compliance and maintain a positive workplace environment.

Understanding New Labor Legislation in Florida

Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718 into law, which aims to crack down on illegal immigration.  Employers should be aware that Florida now requires all private companies with at least 25 employees to complete Form I-9 and use E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of employees hired on or after July 1, 2023.

Senate Bill 252 states that employers cannot require any person to provide proof of vaccination status or post-infection recovery, or submit to a COVID-19 test, in order to enter, access, or receive services from the business.  In addition, employers cannot require any person to wear a face mask or other facial covering extending over the nose and mouth except for healthcare providers and practitioners.

Also, employers should be aware that the state’s minimum wage increases one dollar per hour a year until it reaches $15.00 an hour in 2026.  Currently, the minimum wage in Florida is $12.00 per hour.  This September 2024, the minimum wage will bump up to $13.00 per hour.

Navigating Employee Leave and Accommodations

It is essential for employers to understand and comply with relevant laws and regulations to ensure fairness and compliance. and employee well-being.  Employers have an obligation to follow legal requirements such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and state and local laws.

It is important to establish comprehensive leave and accommodation policies that outline eligibility criteria, request procedures, documentation requirements, and employee rights and responsibilities.  These policies should be communicated clearly to all employees and the employer should provide training to managers and HR staff to ensure consistent application.  In addition, employers should keep detailed records of all requests, communications, accommodations provided, and reason for any denials.  Employee medical information should always be kept confidential and in compliance with privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Avoiding Discrimination and Harassment Claims

Avoiding discrimination and harassment claims is imperative for maintaining a respectful, inclusive, and legally compliant work environment.  In order to do this, an employer should develop and communicate clear policies, provide regular training to both management and employees, foster a culture of respect and inclusion, establish effective reporting mechanisms, promptly and thoroughly investigate complaints, and monitor and review policies regularly, as well as seek legal counsel whenever needed.

Consequences of Misclassification and Overtime

Misclassification of employees and failure to properly manage overtime can lead to significant legal and financial consequences for employers.

Misclassification of Employees

Misclassified employees may be entitled to back pay for unpaid wages, including overtime, as well as missed benefits such as health insurance, retirement contributions, and paid time off.  Employers may face fines imposed by federal and state labor agencies for violations of wage and hour laws related to misclassification.  In addition, the legal fees associated with defending against misclassification lawsuits, investigations, and audits can be substantial.

Improperly Managing Overtime 

Employees who are eligible for, but are not properly compensated, may be entitled to back pay for unpaid overtime hours at a rate of 1-1/2 times their regular rate of pay.  In some instances, employers may be required to pay liquidated damages which can double the amount of back pay owed to employees for unpaid overtime.  Employers may also face penalties and fines from federal and state offices for violations of overtime laws.  Like the misclassification of employees, the legal cost of defending against lawsuits and investigations can be significant.

Tips for Compliant Hiring Practices

Maintaining compliant hiring practices is essential for employers to create a legally sound recruitment process.  Some of the ways to ensure compliance is to develop clear job descriptions, follow Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, implement a structured interview process, always maintain confidentiality, conduct comprehensive background checks, maintain accurate records, and provide clear communication at all times.  It is also very important to stay informed about legal changes in federal, state, and local laws and regulations related to hiring practices to ensure ongoing compliance.

By adhering to these tips and prioritizing compliance in hiring practices, employers can minimize legal risks, attract top talent, and build a strong foundation for a fair and inclusive workplace. Regular training, policy reviews, and compliance audits can help employers maintain high standards and adapt to evolving legal requirements effectively.

Have Questions About Labor Law?

I’m Rob Robinson and I have spent over thirty years practicing labor and employment law for both private and public employers in Florida.  I can help your business comply with federal, state, and local labor and employment laws, including wage and hour laws, anti-discrimination laws, and workplace safety regulations.  I can also identify potential legal risks and liabilities related to employment practices.  I can also help develop strategies to mitigate these risks proactively.

If you have questions related to employment issues, such as hiring and firing decisions, employee classification, workplace investigations, and dispute resolution, please contact my office immediately.  I can help customize solutions that are tailored to your business’s specific needs and objectives.

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