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Fort Lauderdale Employment Law Blog

Reporting your workplace romance to your employer

If asked to define "sexual harassment," you (and most in Fort Lauderdale) would like limit it to unwanted actions directed at a co-worker. Yet harassment regarding your own relationship may also fall into this category (particularly if you are engaged in an office romance). While you (and your romantic partner) should not be subjected to rude or disparaging comments, it is also important to recognize the need to handle office relationships delicately. One question that we here at The Law Office of Michelle Cohen Levy, P.A. often field is whether or not people are required to report to their employers when they enter into a personal relationship with a co-worker. 

No federal or state laws exist detailing how to handle office romances. Yet the fact that CBS News reports that nearly 40 percent of American professionals admit to having been in a relationship with a co-worker confirms that this is a potential issue that both companies and employees should be aware of. The need to report an office relationship is typically left up to each individual employer. Thus, if you are engaged in one, research your company's policy manual to find out if it is indeed a requirement. 

Do not let your employer use an I-9 to discriminate against you

Whether you are starting your first job or have been in the workforce for years, you have probably seen an I-9. Provided your employer has at least four employees, someone at the company must use the form to verify your identity and work eligibility. 

While completing an I-9 is often routine, your employer may illegally use the employment verification process to discriminate against you. If someone in the organization does not follow the law, you may need to act quickly to protect both your legal rights and your job

Misclassification as an independent contractor is often costly

Flexibility and control are among the many perks of being an independent contractor in Florida. However, if your role and responsibilities resemble those of a full-time employee and you lack the independence of a contractor, reclassification may be necessary. This can have significant financial repercussions. At The Law Office of Michelle Cohen Levy, P.A., we have experience reviewing employment contracts to determine whether workplace responsibilities and requirements are overreaching for a contractor role.

The Department for Professional Employees reports that employee misclassification in the U.S. is widespread. When erroneously classified as an independent contractor, employees face higher levels of taxation, do not receive overtime and lose workplace protections. If you hold a position classified as a contractor instead of an employee, you also may not qualify for unemployment or disability compensation in the event you become unemployed.

What is constructive discharge?

Some working environments are so abysmal that an employee would rather quit than put up with them. This is called constructive discharge and employees that resigned because of a toxic workplace may be able to file a wrongful termination claim as a result. The Balance explains constructive discharge and what you can do if it happens to you.

There are numerous reasons why constructive discharges occur. It could be a matter of workplace harassment or discrimination, a worker’s pay may be cut for no reason, or conditions may be deemed unsafe. In some cases, an employer will actually treat a worker badly just to get the person to quit. If any of these issues occur, it will be up to the employee to prove the infractions.

The law regarding paternity leave

If you are a soon-to-be father in Florida, you may be looking forward to paternity leave and spending some quality time with your little one. Many companies follow the requirements of the Family Medical Leave Act but make no additional concessions. At The Law Office of Michelle Cohen Levy, P.A., we often represent clients wrongfully terminated after FMLA requests.

According to Fairygodboss, paternity leave is the time a new father takes away from work to spend time with his new baby. Also called parental leave and family leave, it applies to fathers, mothers and domestic partners. The majority of states do not have paid leave laws; Parents rely on FMLA for job protection while they care for their newborns or newly adopted children.

How can I deal with a work bully?

It’s an unfortunate fact that many Florida workplaces are home to bullies. While this may seem like a problem relegated to the classroom, bullying behavior can make your work life extremely unpleasant or even hostile in some cases. That’s why The Balance offers the following advice, which will help you deal with bullies and ensure they are brought to the attention of your supervisors.

Establish boundaries

How should you bring up workplace harassment to HR?

From off-color jokes to inappropriate comments, there are many ways harassment can manifest in the workplace. No matter which industry you are in, harassment is likely a part of it. A recent survey found that around 20 percent of Americans have experienced some form of harassment at work. 

If you ever experience harassment, the first thing you should do is bring the harassment to the attention of your company's HR department. There are specific steps you can take to resolve the problem and help your case. 

Deterrents to reporting sexual harassment

There is a good chance workers in Florida who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, sexual harassment do not report it. Even after the #metoo movement, there are many women and men who still will not come forward. The reasons for this vary, but they are common, and it is hard to know what it will take for more to report this behavior.

According to the Huffington Post, fear of the consequences is one of the biggest reasons people do not report sexual harassment. In many cases, the victim does not want to do anything to jeopardize the job. If the victim is younger and just starting out in his or her career, it is even harder to make the decision to tell someone about the harassment. Women especially, but also men, will choose to put it aside or shrug it off until another job opportunity opens up.

What is the Bacon-Davis Act?

A natural tendency that you may engage in when connecting with others in your same line of work in Fort Lauderdale may be to compare your salaries. Large discrepancies in pay between competing companies within the same industry might prompt you to question who sets the market for your services? Many assume that wages are regulated. This may come from some assuming that Florida has a prevailing wage law. 

Prevailing wage laws are often associated with legislation enacted all the way back in 1931 known as the "Davis-Bacon Act." This act called for contractors who took on federal jobs greater than $2,000 to pay their employees a prevailing wage. That wage was determined based off the average amount paid to workers in the area employed in the same industry. On top of the prevailing wage, the Act also required that federally contracted employees receive fringe benefits similar to those given to their local counterparts working in private industries. 

Is dating a co-worker a good idea?

Workplace harassment of a sexual nature is universally frowned up. However, when it comes to dating co-workers, opinions tend to be a bit murkier. It’s natural that you form bonds with the people you work with, and some employees take these bonds to another level by entering into romantic relationships with co-workers. The Balance offers the following advice in this case.

Be careful about power dynamics

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