Labor and Employment Law Overview: Florida

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • State law, including the Florida Civil Rights Act, prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees in a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Employers may test their employees for drugs and alcohol, but state law offers employers certain guidance regarding preemployment drug and alcohol testing. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • Florida's minimum wage rate is higher than the federal minimum wage rate. A separate minimum wage rate exists for employees whose wages are largely in tips or commissions. See Wage and Hour.
  • Employers may use payroll debit cards for payment of employee wages if certain requirements are met. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Employees who respond to a summons for jury duty service enjoy certain protections under state law. See Attendance and Leave.

Introduction to Employment Law in Florida

Florida is generally considered an employer-friendly state.

Select Florida employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Florida requirements impacting equal employment opportunity, diversity and employee relations are:

Protected Classes

The Florida Civil Rights Act is interpreted in accordance with federal antidiscrimination laws and applies to employers with 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

Florida law prohibits employment discrimination based on the following factors:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • Sex (including pregnancy);
  • National origin;
  • Disability;
  • Age (40 years or older); and
  • Marital status.

Unlike federal antidiscrimination laws, the Florida Civil Rights Act provides protection from discrimination based upon marital status. The Florida Supreme Court has held that marital status "means the state of being married, single, divorced, widowed or separated, and does not include the specific identity or actions of an individual's spouse."

Wage Discrimination Between Sexes

The State Worker Equal Pay Act prohibits discrimination based on sex in terms of employee compensation for all jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility and are performed under similar working conditions.

Differentiations in pay are permissible if made under:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
  • Any reasonable factor other than sex.

The law covers any employer with two or more employees if the employer is not subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). An employee may file a civil lawsuit against the employer to recover the difference between the amount the employee was paid and the amount that should have been paid.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Florida can be found in the Florida Supplement: Table of Contents, EEO - Discrimination: Florida,EEO - Retaliation: Florida,Florida Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Florida?. Federal requirements can be found in EEO - Discrimination: Federal and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Florida requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Drug and Alcohol Testing

In Florida, employers may test their employees for drugs and alcohol to ensure the workplace is drug- and alcohol-free. Employers implementing a drug-free workplace program under the Drug-Free Workplace Act should ensure the program includes notice, education and testing procedures for both drugs and alcohol.

Employers may require drug and alcohol tests be administered to individuals on the following bases:

  • Preemployment or job-applicant testing;
  • Reasonable suspicion;
  • Routine fitness-for-duty;
  • As a follow-up to rehabilitation for up to two years after such a program; and
  • Random testing.

Nothing in the law requires employers to request that an applicant submit to a drug and alcohol test. If an employer intends to start a testing program, the employer must give affected employees 60 days' notice prior to beginning the actual testing.

Within five working days of receiving test results positive for drugs or alcohol, the employer must provide the individual with written notice of the positive result, the consequences and the individual's options. The employee or applicant must be given a copy of the results upon request.

Within five working days of receiving the results, the individual may submit information explaining or contesting the results. The employer may retest the individual or provide a written response stating why the individual's explanation was unsatisfactory, along with a copy of the results. This documentation must be maintained for a period of one year.

Discharge or discipline of an employee, or refusal to hire based on a positive drug test or a refusal to be tested, is considered discharge or non-hire "for cause."

Mandatory Background Screening

Florida law mandates that certain employees undergo a Level-1 screening. Those employed as law enforcement officers or hired to work with children or the elderly, for example, are required by law to undergo background screening as a condition of employment and continued employment. A Level 1 screening includes an employment history and a state wide criminal correspondence check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. While all information obtained from the screening is confidential, personnel records may be shared among like employers upon request.

A person seeking a position designated by law as a position of trust and responsibility must undergo a Level-2 screening. Such positions include:

  • Those in programs providing care to children, the developmentally disabled, or vulnerable adults for 15 hours or more per week;
  • All permanent and temporary employee positions of the central abuse hotline; and
  • All persons working under contract who have access to abuse records.

A Level-2 screening must include an employment history check, fingerprinting, a state criminal history check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a federal criminal history check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

AIDS/HIV Testing

In Florida, an employer may not require an applicant to take an HIV-related test as a condition of hiring, promotion or continued employment unless the absence of AIDS or HIV infection is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job in question, such as where there is a significant risk of transmitting the infection to another in the course of normal work activities.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Florida can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Florida and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Florida?. Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Florida requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Florida's Minimum Wage Act requires that the state minimum wage rate be adjusted for inflation. The current rate is $8.05 per hour. A separate minimum wage rate exists for tipped employees and there are exceptions to the state minimum wage rate.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Florida restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

All minors are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations, which have been specifically designated by law for those 17 and under and those 15 and under. Minors 17 years old and younger may not work in any place where alcoholic beverages are sold at retail, with certain exceptions. Minors 10 years and younger may not work distributing newspapers.

When school is in session, 16- and 17-year-olds may not work:

  • Before 6:30 a.m. or after 11:00 p.m. when school is scheduled the following day;
  • More than 30 hours in any week;
  • More than eight hours in any day when school is scheduled the following day;
  • During school hours, unless they are enrolled in a career education program; and
  • More than six consecutive days in a week.

There are no restrictions during holidays and summer vacations.

When school is in session, 14- and 15-year-olds may not work:

  • Before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. when school is scheduled the following day;
  • More than 15 hours in any week;
  • More than three hours in any school day, unless they are enrolled in a career education program or unless there is no school the following day; and
  • More than six consecutive days in a week.

During holidays and summer vacations, 14- and 15-year-olds may not work:

  • Before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.;
  • More than 40 hours in any week;
  • More than eight hours in any day; and
  • More than six consecutive days in a week.

There are some exceptions to Florida's hours of work restrictions.

Independent Contractors - Construction Workers

With the exception of independent contractors working or performing services in the construction industry, individuals working as independent contractors are not eligible for workers' compensation benefits from the companies for whom they are performing services.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Florida can be found in Minimum Wage: Florida, Child Labor: Florida, Employee Classification: Florida, Florida Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Florida?. Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Child Labor: Federal and Employee Classification: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Florida requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Payment of Wages

An employer may pay employees by:

  • Cash;
  • Check, draft, note, memorandum or other acknowledgment of indebtedness so long as it is negotiable and payable on demand at an established place of business in the state;
  • Direct deposit into an account at a financial institution of the employee's choosing, as long as the employee has consented in writing; or
  • Payroll debit card if the cards are negotiable and payable in cash, on demand, without discount at an established place of business in the state, the name and address of which appears in the payroll debit card issuing materials.

Wage Garnishment

If an employee defaults on one or more debts in Florida, the employee's creditor may get a court order requiring the debtor's employer to withhold a certain amount of the employee's pay each pay period until the debt is satisfied. Employers must deduct payroll taxes and federal taxes before withholding money for non-tax purposes, such as garnishment.

Termination Pay

Florida law does not set specific criteria for the timing or manner of a separated employee's final paycheck. Therefore, employers should pay employees on the next regular payday following the employee's separation from employment.

Florida law also does not require employers to pay accrued and unused vacation days upon termination. However, HR should consult the employer's work rules and any applicable employment or collective bargaining agreement, which may provide employees with certain rights not provided under federal or state law.

Health Care Continuation

Employers with 20 or more employees must comply with the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA requires covered employers to provide continued health care coverage, under employers' group plans, to employees experiencing qualifying events that would otherwise result in a loss of coverage. Florida's Continuation Coverage Law, a mini-COBRA law, applies to employers with fewer than 20 employees. Florida's mini-COBRA law allows eligible employees to elect continued coverage for up to 18 months (29 in the case of disability).

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Florida can be found in Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Florida, Payment of Wages: Florida, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Florida and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Florida? Federal requirements can be found in Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal, Payment of Wages: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Under Florida law, an employer may not terminate or threaten to terminate an employee because of the nature or length of service on a jury.

In addition, private employers of 50 or more employees must provide leave to employees (who have been employed for three or more months) who are victims of, or have family or household members that are victims of, domestic or sexual violence for certain protected activities. Employers must allow an employee to take up to three working days of such leave in any 12-month period.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Florida can be found in the Florida Supplement: Table of Contents, Other Leaves: Florida and Jury Duty: Florida. Federal requirements can be found in Jury Duty: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Employers are protected from civil liability when they provide references to a current or former employee's prospective employer. That protection will apply unless the employer knowingly provides false information or provides information in violation of the current or former employee's civil rights.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on job references practices in Florida can be found in Employee Communications: Florida. Federal requirements can be found in Employee Communications: Federal.