Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, workers are protected against discrimination based on their race, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, transgender status, and pregnancy. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits covered employers from discriminating on the basis of age with regard to employees who are 40 years old or older. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of disability and may require employers to accommodate disabled employees depending on the circumstances. Also, Florida law provides workers with marital status and HIV status protection. In addition, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County provide protection to transgender workers.
Legally, the term “discrimination” means less favorable treatment because of a person’s gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, race, national origin, age, disability or religious beliefs. Discrimination may occur when an employer makes decisions on hiring, promotions, pay rates, benefits, job assignments, training, and discipline, including termination.
The law forbids retaliation against employees for having complained about or reported illegal discrimination. If you have complained of discrimination, and after you complained, your employer demoted or terminated you, or diminished your compensation and/or benefits, you may have a claim for retaliation. To prove a claim of retaliation, you must prove that you suffered an adverse employment action because you complained about or reported what you reasonably believed was discrimination.
Florida is an “employment at-will” state, which means that generally, in private sector non-union settings, employers have discretion to make personnel decisions such as whom to hire, promote, demote, or terminate, whether to provide or deny pay increases, bonuses and benefits, and how to discipline employees. However, federal, state and local laws prohibit employers from making those decisions based on the above protected categories.
If you have questions about discriminatory practices in your workplace, Nnamdi Jackson has answers for workers and employers.