Federal, State & Local Laws Prohibit Employment Discrimination

For employees in Florida, there are laws in place at the federal, state, and some local levels that prohibit discrimination against employees based on certain protected categories.  These laws are not always uniform and can be confusing. The primary federal anti-discrimination law is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin (as well as retaliation for making complaints of discrimination).  The Americans with Disabilities Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act are federal laws that provide similar protections to employees on the basis of age and disability.  The state anti-discrimination law in Florida is the Florida Civil Rights Act, which similarly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, and retaliation, but also includes marital status. “Sex” under these laws includes pregnancy, and includes sexual harassment.

In order to make a claim under these federal and state laws, employees must timely file complaints with the administrative agencies that were created to enforce these laws, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Human Relations Commission, before they have the right to file a lawsuit in Court.  Generally, complaints in Florida are “co-filed” with both agencies.  In that case, employees have 300 days from the date of the discriminatory act to file their complaint.  Although neither the federal or state anti-discrimination laws explicitly cover sexual orientation or gender identity, the EEOC has interpreted Title VII to cover these categories, and accepts and investigates claims made on these bases.

Some local municipalities in Florida have passed their own anti-discrimination laws, commonly referred to as Human Rights Ordinances.  Such HROs currently exist in local jurisdictions that cover more than half of the population of the state of Florida, including in Orlando and Orange County and other Central Florida locales.  The specific content of these local HROs varies among jurisdictions.  However, some of their distinguishing features are that they typically explicitly cover sexual orientation and gender identity (and sometimes other additional categories such as marital status and familial status), and they often do not require filing first with an administrative agency before filing a lawsuit.  www.MaryMeeksLaw.com

 

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