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People's Law Guide

 

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Employment Law in Florida

07/22/12

GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL & TRANSGENDER EMPLOYMENT LAW RIGHTS IN FLORIDA
Creative Lawyering Expands Limited Protections For LGBT Floridians

Twenty one states have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation and 15 states outlaw discrimination based upon gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Florida, as you already likely know, is not among any of those states. However, a Florida law outlawing discrimination based on marital status, another law providing whistleblower protections and a patchwork quilt of ordinances existing in some counties and cities, provides important employment law protections for Floridians who are discriminated against on the basis of their being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and sometimes also because of gender identity.

Alachua, Broward, Hillsboro, Leon, Miami Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, and Volusia Counties all outlaw sexual orientation discrimination among all municipalities and at private employers within their jurisdictions. Broward, Leon, and Monroe Counties also have ordinances forbidding local governments and private employers from discriminating on the basis of gender identity. The cities of Dunedin, Gainesville, Gulfport, Key West, Lake Worth, Miami Beach, Oakland Park, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Wilton Manors each have ordinances prohibiting gender identity discrimination and sexual orientation bias. Of the ordinances, some regulate only those workplaces having more than a certain minimum number of employees. Not all of these jurisdictions permit workers to file private lawsuits against employers committing the types of discrimination outlawed within these cities and counties. In those locals where individuals can file lawsuits, only the local governments can initiate legal proceedings against employers alleged to have violated anti-discrimination ordinances.

Persons residing in municipalities prohibiting sexual orientation or gender identity bias which don’t permit private lawsuits to be filed against employers engaging in this type of outlawed discrimination often can seek legal recourse by utilizing artful legal practices through Florida’s whistleblower law. With employers prohibited from retaliating against individuals for complaining of illegal conduct occurring at their workplaces, workers who object to being discriminated against in cities and counties not otherwise authorizing the filing of private lawsuits are able to make full use of the State’s whistleblower law to seek compensation for lost wages, emotional pain and suffering, as well as to obtain an additional money award for their attorneys fees. Though Florida’s whistleblower act does not require complaints to employers about illegal on the job conduct be made in writing, doing so provides important evidence that objections to illegal worksite discrimination had actually been lodged. It’s wise to send such complaints by certified, return receipt mail, FedEx, UPS, or fax transmission. Documentation of receipt by the entity delivering a letter or verification of successful fax transmission provides essential evidence that complaints about or objections to on the job bias were actually made.

Florida’s Civil Rights Act prohibits all governmental employers and those private sector entities having 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of marital status, meaning persons alleging to have been targeted with bias due to being single, divorced, widowed, separated, or married can initiate claims of workplace bias. Obtaining evidence early on is critical, as the Florida Commission on Human Relations, commonly referred to as FCHR, requires employees to bring legal actions in unusual non-court hearings for claims of marital status discrimination when the agency issues rulings of insufficient probable cause to determine illegal discrimination had occurred. The FCHR rarely conducts on-the-scene investigations. With FCHR personnel typically making decisions about probable cause findings based upon how effectively employers refute in written replies to contentions they broke staffing laws, employees and the attorneys assisting them should take active steps to obtain evidence to bring to the Commission’s attention. Evidence can include paperwork, examples of non-equal treatment among employees, and statements from witnesses. In addition to permitting employees to seek legal redress for lost wages, emotional pain and suffering and attorneys fees, this law banning marital status discrimination also permits punitive damage awards to punish private sector employers for violating the law and to discourage other employers from running afoul of it.

All the anti-discrimination regulations mentioned in this article can provide recourse to persons who were discriminated against when not being hired, when fired, demoted, suspended, punished, refused a promotion or other benefit, and also when their compensation was set below what it should have been. Note that each of these employment laws have short statutes of limitations, so taking prompt appropriate legal action is vital after the occurrence of workplace discrimination.

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Information contained in this article was accurate as of July 1, 2011. This article is for general information use only and does not substitute for specifically tailored legal advice.

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