Employment & Drug-Free Workplace
Labor & Employment Services
Both employees and employers may require the assistance of an experienced labor and employment lawyer.
Even though Florida is an at-will employment state, there are many ways an employee may make claims against an employer and ways in which an employer may make claims against an employee.
Below are just some ways Easler Law can assist you with labor and employment matters:
- Generate workplace safety programs, policies, and training;
- Provide counseling through violations or audits;
- Help resolve wage disputes;
- Draft and review employment contracts;
- Counsel for Employment Discrimination claims under Title VII; and
- Preparing employee handbooks and policies.
While Florida is an at-will employment state, employers must still abide by a wide range of both state and federal rules from the Division of Workers’ Compensation, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Civil Rights Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act. We can help you comply through a variety of legal services including:
An appropriately drafted employment contract spells out the specific terms of the employment relationship, protects the employer’s intellectual property, defines the duties between the employer and employee, and protects the employer from certain liability. An experienced labor and employment law attorney can help draft solid employment agreements and can assist employers and employees when a dispute arises over the contract’s terms.
Resolving Issues with Wages and Payments
Disputes often arise between employers and employees regarding wages and the payment of wages. Interrupting the payment of earned income to one or more employees can not only disrupt the workplace and negatively impact morale, but doing so also carries serious legal ramifications. Both employers and employees must be aware of both authorized and prohibited wage-related activity. Common problems that arise from wage disputes include:
- Minimum Wage– Under federal law, public and private companies must pay the minimum wage, anything less is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, the federal minimum wage sets the “floor” for employers nationwide; states can and do often set a minimum wage specific to the state which is higher than the federal minimum wage. There are some exceptions. One example is for workers like waiters and food delivery drivers employed by restaurants who customarily earn additional income through tips. This type of employment has its own minimum pay rate which is lower than the standard minimum wage to accommodate for tips.
- Overtime– Florida follows the federal standard for overtime pay. Generally, an employee is entitled to at least time and a half of pay for any hours that go over 40 hours per workweek. Some exceptions apply, including for employees who are in certain executive, administrative, professional, computer, and outside sales positions.
- Deductions– Taxes, social security, and insurance payments are common and general deductions removed from paychecks. However, sometimes deductions are made without an employee’s approval. Employees need to be familiar with what can be deducted from their paychecks and immediately report any discrepancies in payments. Employers in Florida may be entitled to deduct a variety of expenses from an employee’s wages for incidentals like uniforms, tools, bounced checks, or even damage to the employer’s property. Employers should ensure that employees have advance notice of the types of expenses that may be deducted and, if no notice is given, that employers receive informed consent from employees regarding such deductions. However, in no event should the employer-directed deduction result in less than the federal minimum wage for the period the deduction is made or employers may run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- Wage Dispute and Reductions in Pay– Disputes may arise between employees and employers over agreed-upon compensation amounts. These types of disputes can often be easily prevented with detailed and well-drafted employment contracts as well as a communication of clear expectations from the outset. If advance notice is given, reduction of pay by an employer after an employment relationship has begun is often legal in Florida unless an employment contract prohibits it. However, reduction of wages may also cause tension and decrease morale in the workplace and, if wielded as a disciplinary tool, it may be considered a type of retaliation.
Drug-Free Workplace Programs
Drug and alcohol use in the workplace is attributed to increased accident rates, absenteeism, and shrinkage, and decreases morale, efficiency, and productivity. Not only will an appropriately drafted policy help address these major concerns, but Florida and several other states provide an incentive program for employers who implement policies that comply with their drug-free workplace program where they can receive workers’ compensation premium credits. In addition, we can assist with developing drug-free workplace policies that comply with both state and federal laws. For example, we draft, revise, and update policies for employers subject to United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations such as:
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulations
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations
- Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations
- United States Coast Guard (USCG) regulations
Expert Witness Services
As a recognized subject matter expert in drug and alcohol testing training and policies, our managing attorney, Andrew Easler, offers expert witness and consulting services in disputes involving drug and alcohol testing programs, policies, and procedures.
Employers are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for employees. The primary source of law throughout the United States governing health and safety conditions in the workplace comes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This act was established as a means to ensure that employers provide a workplace that is free from unnecessary hazards. In addition to general health and safety rules, OSHA requires initial and ongoing training for employees and their supervisors.
For employers, reducing risks and preventing injuries is vital, not only to save money for the business and protect the health of the workforce but also to maintain low employee turnover rates and avoid costly litigation. Implementation of effective safety procedures will reduce the cost of medical and other expenses that derive from workplace accidents. Since health and safety is regulated by OSHA, employers must follow the guidelines set by this agency. Consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney is vital to business stability and protects your business and your workforce.
Employees, as the intended beneficiaries of health and safety laws, also have defensible rights. For example, employees should be willing to report injuries in the workplace without the fear of retaliation. Retaliation is when a supervisor or other representative of an employer causes negative consequences for someone who reports a problem in the workplace. If an employee is concerned with safety or working conditions, a formal complaint can be filed with OSHA; this will open an investigation on the employee’s claims. In extreme conditions, employees may be within their rights to refuse to work. If you find yourself working in questionable conditions, ask your employer to eliminate the hazard, report your complaint to OSHA and retain legal counsel if the danger continues. As an employer, always investigate reports of hazardous conditions and ensure that you follow safe work practices in accordance with state and federal law.
Work Environment & Discrimination
Health and safety hazards are not the only workplace concerns employees may encounter. A common issue employees also face is a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is a legal term with a high standard. “Hostile” doesn’t just mean working with people you don’t like or having a bad attitude; “hostile” work environments make it impossible or nearly impossible to perform your regular work duties due to the behavior and conduct (or lack of conduct) of a supervisor or other employees. Discriminatory remarks and sexual comments can also reach the level of a hostile work environment. When experiencing these conditions at work, employees generally must report inappropriate behavior to the human resources department or upper management and allow them to attempt to resolve the issue. If there is no action or the hostile conditions persist, there are alternative resources and avenues to file complaints including through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This Commission was created to investigate allegations against employers for discrimination. Discrimination can take different forms including:
- Genetic information
- Equal Compensation
- National Origin
- Sexual Harassment
Florida is an at-will employment state, so many employers and employees are under the false assumption that there can be no wrongful termination. However, even though employment relationships are at-will by default, federal and state law as well as employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements still limit the reasons such a relationship can terminate. Wrongful termination claims, however, can be difficult to prove. To have a valid claim for wrongful termination, an employee must show that they were terminated on the basis of at least one of the forms of discrimination listed above. Generally, unless a contract, employment policy, or collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise, employers do not need to provide a reason to terminate an employment relationship. However, if an employee is given a discriminatory reason or there is substantive evidence that can establish a discriminatory reason for termination, an employee may have a valid claim in Florida courts for wrongful termination.
Termination can also be a form of retaliation. As discussed above, retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for submitting a complaint or reporting a problem in the workplace. Under federal and state law, it is illegal for an employee to be fired, demoted, or disciplined for reporting employer violations. This type of claim may also be difficult to prove; however, if sufficient evidence is available such as emails, credible witnesses, and other records, an employer may be held liable for retaliation.
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