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.
Meals and Breaks
Florida labor laws require employers to grant a meal period of at least 30 minutes to employees under the age of 18 who work for more than 4 hours continuously. Florida Stat. 450.081(4).
Florida does not have any laws requiring an employer to provide a meal period or breaks to employees 18 years of age or older, thus the federal rule applies. The federal rule does not require an employer to provide either a meal (lunch) period or breaks. However, if an employer chooses to do so, breaks, usually of the type lasting less than 20 minutes, must be paid. Meal or lunch periods (usually 30 minutes or more) do not need to be paid, so long as the employee is free to do as they wish during the meal or lunch period
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 $8.05 an hour for most employees, as of January 2015; it is $5.03 for tipped employees, in addition to tip, 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.