8 Key Florida Employment Discrimination Laws

October 11, 2021

Last year in Florida, there were nearly 6,000 employment discrimination charges filed with the EEOC. Over half (57%) were for retaliation, a third (33%) were based on disability discrimination, and 31% were for race and gender discrimination claims. (FYI: the percentages add up to over 100% because some individuals filed charges that alleged multiple statutory bases, such as race and gender).

As a result, you should be aware of the important Florida employment discrimination laws that apply to Floridians and how to protect your rights. 

What Types of Discrimination are Prohibited in Florida?

Federal and state law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or marital status in employment. In addition, Florida state law also prohibits discrimination based on AIDS/HIV and the sickle cell trait, among other protected characteristics.

Note that while Florida’s state law does not yet address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, however, Federal law does.  In addition, there are several cities and counties in the state that do prohibit these forms of discrimination. Almost two dozen counties prohibit discrimination in private and public employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

What are the Key Florida Employment Discrimination Laws?

These eight state and federal laws are important to understand because they protect employee’s rights and offer the basis for a claim of employment discrimination:

  1. The Florida Civil Rights Act. The state’s anti-discrimination law provides the basis for many claims of employment discrimination. This law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. Pursuant to this law, a person can file a discrimination claim with either with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a very well-known anti-discrimination law. It similarly prohibits discrimination against an employee because of the employee’s race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. In addition, recent Supreme Court precedent has extended Title VII’s protections to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Title VII also requires employers to reasonably accommodate applicants’ and employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs, provided the accommodation does impose an undue burden on the company.
  3. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This amendment to Title VII forbids discrimination against a woman due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. This federal law prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy in any facet of employment, including hiring, firing, wages, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, vacation and leave, as well as health insurance. This law doesn’t mandate that employers provide pregnancy or parental leave, however. But if an employer already makes leave available for other temporary disabilities, it must make the same leave available to employees who are unable to work because of pregnancy.
  4. The Equal Pay Act. This federal law says that men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform the same type of work for the same employer. The jobs don’t have to be identical, but they must be “substantially equal.” And it’s the job content that determines whether jobs are substantially equal, not the job titles. All types of compensation are covered by this law. This includes salary, overtime, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, any types of mileage or travel allowances or reimbursement, and benefits. Also, if there is an inequality in wages between men and women, the employer can’t simply decrease the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.
  5. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability in private and in state and local government employment. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for physical or mental disabilities of applicants and employees, so long as the accommodation does not impose an undue burden on the employer.
  6. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions, restricts employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information, and strictly limits the disclosure of individuals’ genetic information.
  7. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older. Note that the Florida anti-discrimination statute does not expressly require you to be at least 40 years of age or older, and arguably covers those under 40.
  8. The Civil Rights Act of 1991. This law changed some of the basic procedural and substantive rights provided by federal law in employment discrimination cases. The law gives employees and applicants the right to trial by jury on discrimination claims and also introduced the possibility of emotional distress and punitive damages and set limits on how much money a jury could award depending on the size of the employer.

How Much Time Do You Have to File a Discrimination Claim?

Most federal employment discrimination statutes require you to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), or a local county/city agency responsible for accepting discrimination charges within 300 days of the discriminatory adverse employment action.  State law requires you to file your charge within 365 days.  These deadlines are strictly enforced.  For most types of employment discrimination claims, you can only file a lawsuit after concluding the EEOC or FCRH process.  If you miss the deadline, you are handing your employer a free win.

For these reasons, if you believe you have been the victim of employment discrimination, it is important to contact an experienced Florida employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible (even if you believe the deadline has expired on your potential claim as some laws have longer filing deadlines depending on your specific situation).

Contact an Experienced Florida Employment Law Attorney

Discrimination in employment can have a serious impact on workers and their families. If you believe you experienced illegal treatment at work, an experienced employment discrimination attorney can help you obtain compensation for your damages. Contact Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC for help.

At Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, our legal team is dedicated to the pursuit of justice for our clients. Our law firm has over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing victims of employment discrimination. We operate differently than many law firms and always put the best interests of our clients first. Contact us today.

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