Have You Been Retaliated Against Due to a Wage and Hour Dispute?
If you believe that your employer is not providing you with appropriate payment as dictated by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Florida Minimum Wage Act, F.S. 448.01 et al., you have the right to make a formal or informal complaint. If you don’t want to file an internal complaint or you simply aren’t satisfied by the response of your employer, you can then file an administrative wage claim with the U.S. Department of Labor or file a lawsuit in state or federal court. Under the statute, you may be entitled to lawyer’s fees and liquidated damages, in addition to the recovery of your unpaid wages.
Under both federal and state law, it is illegal for an employee to be fired for exercising their protected legal rights, such as filing a wage complaint. This protection applies to both formal and informal complaints, as well as testifying about wage violations in a legal proceeding. In this article, we’ll discuss what actions are classified as retaliation, what legal protection Florida provides to employees in regards to retaliation claims, and what you should do if you believe you have been retaliated against. If you have been retaliated against because of a wage and hour dispute, don’t hesitate to contact a wage dispute lawyer in Tampa with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants.
Related: When Workers Experience Retaliation
What’s Classified as Retaliation?
Retaliation is any negative action an employer takes against you for exercising your workplace rights under FLSA, such as filing a wage claim. This action negatively and significantly affects the terms and conditions of your employment. Many workers hesitate or avoid coming forward to report wage and hour violations in Florida because it’s not uncommon for an employer to retaliate or threaten to retaliate against a worker.
Retaliation takes many forms and can be difficult to recognize unless you know the signs. The important thing to remember is that if your position was negatively affected following your reporting of an internal or external complaint, you have likely become the victim of retaliatory actions. Retaliatory actions can include any of the following actions:
- Reduction in hours
- Reduction in pay
- Negative performance evaluation
- Loss of benefits
- Unfair discipline
- Harassment and/or threats
- Refusal to hire or promote
- Reporting or threatening to report someone’s lack of immigration status
- Fabricating a criminal charge
This, of course, only scratches the surface of the retaliatory actions your employer could take. Retaliation also covers, for example, any other action that would discourage a reasonable person from pursuing his or her rights.
What Legal Protection Does Florida Provide to Employees From Retaliation?
Florida is considered an “at-will employment” state, meaning its employers have the right to fire employees at any time for any reason, unless the termination is in violation of a statute. This means, in addition to the protections provided to employees by the FLSA, you are also protected by the Florida Whistleblower’s Act (§ 112.3187, Fla. Stat. Ann.) or the Florida Private Sector Whistleblower Act ( § 448.10, Fla. Stat. Ann.), depending on whether or not you are a public or private employee. Under these two whistleblower statutes, you may not be discharged or discriminated against for disclosure of information regarding violations of local, state, or federal law or for claiming workers’ compensation. Other actions protected from retaliation by employers include but are not limited to forming or joining a union, participating in union activities, cooperating with authorities in an investigation of the employer, and refusing to participate in illegal activity.
What to Do if You Believe You Have Been Retaliated Against By Your Employer
If you believe that you have been retaliated against by your employer, your first step should be to contact one of our Tampa wage and hour attorneys. We can help you determine whether or not you have a case by first deciding whether or not you have been the victim of retaliatory action, such as a reduction in your pay or a reduction in your hours. Provided that you have a case, we will assist you in the process of collecting evidence to support your claim. Anything that can demonstrate that your employer’s view of your performance shifted after you participated in protected activity can be used as evidence, such as emails, evaluations, and other documentation.
Timing is often a key element of this evidence; the less time that passes between your complaint and the negative action, the more likely you are the victim of retaliation. Generally speaking, the law requires that the timing of the complaint and the timing of the retaliation be three months or less. Other important elements of retaliation evidence include reasonable explanation and awareness. You must prove that your employer knew about the complaint at the time of the negative action and that there was no legitimate reason for taking negative action. Having an attorney by your side throughout this process can ensure you file your claim efficiently and properly before the statute of limitations passes. There’s no reason you should not be reimbursed for lost wages, attorneys’ fees, liquidated damages, and out-of-pocket costs.
If you would like to speak with a Tampa wage and hour lawyer, please contact us today.