Employers constantly face the threat of employment discrimination lawsuits under federal laws and state equivalents. In Florida, most discrimination cases are filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act.
Over the past two decades, the number of employment discrimination lawsuits has dramatically risen, making employment litigation one of the most expensive areas of the law for companies in Florida and across the United States. Overall, the increase in the number of employment discrimination cases has generally been caused by amendments that have expanded the rights and categories of protected individuals under the various anti-discrimination laws. For example, the types of discrimination now prohibited under state and federal employment laws include not only race, but also:
- Sexual orientation
- HIV or AIDS status
- Sexual orientation
The key to most discrimination cases is whether the employee can sufficiently establish that they were intentionally discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment based upon one or more of the above protected categories. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the only way that an employee can prove that they were intentionally discriminated against is by providing evidence that another, similarly situated employee outside of his or her protected category was treated more favorably under similar circumstances. However, an employer can respond to said lawsuit by raising various defenses and counterarguments, such as:
- The employer has never treated any other employee differently under any circumstances.
- The employer has a diverse workforce representing people in all protected categories.
- The employer has a demonstrated record of treating all employees equally.
- The employer can demonstrate with documented employee records that poor work performance or misconduct – not race, religion or other protected status – lead to the disciplining or termination of the employee.
- The employer has documented procedures in place for disciplining and terminating employees and does so without regard to race, gender or any other illegal consideration.
Discrimination claims in the workplace continues to be a significant challenge for corporations. The best way to avoid these issues – and to ensure compliance with all applicable laws – is to work with an experienced Florida business employment attorney.