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Fort Lauderdale Employment Law Blog

Employers still commit injustices against pregnant women

You would think that with all the advances we have made for women’s rights, women would no longer suffer discrimination on the job. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to the treatment pregnant women receive. Many employers in Florida and elsewhere may fear the efficiency of their pregnant employees will slack off, or that they will lose productive hours after a baby is born and the mother goes on maternity leave or requests to work fewer hours. This does not mean it is acceptable to treat pregnant women and new mothers as if they are less valuable or have fewer rights than other employees.

You may find it shocking, but the following examples are documented instances of how pregnant women were treated by their employers:

  • Being fired from a bar because the boss was afraid customers would think the company was irresponsible to employ a pregnant woman
  • Requiring pregnant employees to provide a doctor’s note stating the pregnancy was not high-risk, otherwise putting them on unpaid leave
  • Taking an informed decision away from an expectant mother by telling her she should not work for the company because of a product that contained chemicals
  • Informing female employees not to get pregnant, and that the next worker to get pregnant should consider herself fired
  • Not rehiring or reinstating female employees after their maternity leave was up

What is wrongful termination and how do you define it?

The question posed in our title may seem simple on the surface. Most people can "tell" or they get a gut instinct when they read a wrongful termination story, and they make a determination based on these feelings. Of course, in the eyes of the law, that doesn't cut it. Profound evidence needs to be there to establish a wrongful termination case.

But let's take the question as it is posed. What is wrongful termination? In the simplest form, wrongful termination is any firing that is illegal as currently stated by state or federal law. That's a blanket statement, but it does cover the definition. Wrongful termination cases are often seen when an employee is retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment or illegal activity performed by a co-worker or the company itself. Discriminatory tactics are also common circumstances that can lead to a wrongful termination case.

What a 'qui tam' action is and how it works

There are times when an employee makes a startling discovery about his or her company. They learn that the company has been using illegal tactics or have been skirting the law in some way to defraud partners, employees, customers, or other groups of people. It can be difficult in some cases for outside regulatory agencies to know the full picture without having some help -- and this is where that employee comes in, ready to blow the whistle on their employer.

Whistleblower claims allow regulatory agencies to collect and use evidence they may not usually have. For the whistleblower, this can be a precarious position. A 'qui tam' action is an action taken by a whistleblower where he or she receives a small portion of the financial recovery collected by the government. Qui tam actions let the government achieve justice and reclaim lost finances, while giving the whistleblower a financial incentive to work with the government.

What laws are in place regarding your last paycheck?

Imagine that you walk into your office one day and your manager is waiting at your desk. He or she tells you to come to their office to discuss an important matter. It is there that you learn you are being laid off or terminated, and as a result you will no longer be working for the company. Of course, you have put in plenty of hours since your last paycheck, and after the shock of the day wears off, you start to wonder: what about those hours I worked? When will I get my next paycheck?

First, it is important to remember that whether you were fired, laid off, or quit your job, the circumstances of your employment ending still grant you your last paycheck. Your company can't spurn you for that. There is a federal law that provides the minimum requirement for how your last paycheck is handled, and then there are state laws that alter the requirements.

Occupations most at risk of sexual harassment

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, more people have become more forthcoming about the harassment they have endured over the years. Although the movement has so far focused primarily on Hollywood and politics, harassment occurs in every industry. The issue may even be more prevalent than most people realize because some workers are still too afraid to come forward. 

A majority of women will experience sexual harassment at one point or another in their lifetime. There is still much work to do to ensure everyone has a safe work environment. Employees should not hesitate to contact an attorney and file a harassment claim against the perpetrator. According to what data is available, certain professions are more likely to experience this kind of abuse than others. 

Workplace discrimination comes in many unfortunate forms

In a perfect world, there would be no discrimination of any kind. People wouldn't look at each other and judge them based on a single characteristic or detail. Things would be simpler, and there would be a vast number of critical issues that wouldn't threaten people's safety and well-being. However, we don't live in that perfect world. Utopia continues to escape us.

Maybe someday we can achieve that perfect world, but in the meantime we have to deal with what we have. And that means that when an employee is discriminated against based on a host of issues that should not be used to judge their potential, employment, and work rate, then the victimized person needs to be protected and their interests and must be upheld.

Microsoft lawsuit leads to incredible data on internal complaints

Some incredible information was released recently about Microsoft and their handling of gender discrimination complaints within the company. The information was released as a part of a lawsuit that Microsoft is currently defending, one that dates back to 2015 when it was alleged that the company denied women chances at promotions and refused raise requests.

According to the information, there were 118 gender discrimination complaints at Microsoft from 2010 to 2016. Out of all of those complaints, only one was labeled as "founded" by the company. In other words, less than 1 percent of gender discrimination complaints were actually acted on by Microsoft.

Second Circuit ruling strengthens LGBTQ rights in workplace

A major ruling out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit says that the Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is considered a massive breakthrough for LGBTQ rights and it is unknown at this time whether the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The ruling is supported by another appeals court, though a third court in Atlanta ruled the other way.

The case in question involved a sky diving instructor, who was fired in 2010 after he told a female student that he was "100 percent gay." He said this to calm the woman, who he said seemed to be nervous about being tightly strapped to a man who was not her boyfriend. She told her boyfriend about the comment, and he proceeded to complain to the sky diving instructor's employer. He was fired because of this.

Can you face wrongful termination for at-will employment?

Florida offers at-will employment. This means employers can fire employees at-will without any pertinent reasoning. However, it also means employees can leave a place of work for any reason immediately without providing any explanation. 

This situation may leave you wondering if wrongful termination runs rampant. After all, if employers do not need a reason to fire employees, then theoretically nothing stops them from discriminating against workers of a certain gender, race, country of origin, religion, age, medical background or sexual orientation. Fortunately, you still have protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

What should you do if you are sexually harassed at work?

Last week, we talked about sexual harassment prevention and how companies that provide this training are getting far more requests than ever before. This coincides with the expanding national discussion about sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace, and it is important to see this matter to cause some genuine movement towards progress.

To expand on this discussion, we want to talk about practical steps that any worker could take if they are sexually harassed in their workplace. So what should you do in such an unfortunate situation?