The Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”) of 1992, Section 760.01, et. seq., Florida Statutes, was enacted to prohibit discriminatory practices against employees in the workplace. The statute itself states that it shall be “liberally construed.” Case law follows judicial decisions interpreting federal employment anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although sexual harassment in the workplace is typically actionable under the FCRA, it is important to understand whether the FCRA imposes liability on individual employees or supervisors who allegedly engage in sexual harassment in the workplace.
Employment discrimination cases frequently seek to become personal vendettas by dragging their former supervisors into the litigation. There is a body of federal and Florida state law regarding claims of discrimination against supervisors and other persons holding positions of authority. Peter Mavrick is a Fort Lauderdale employment attorney who has extensive experience defending employers against sexual harassment claims under the FCRA.
The FCRA at Section 760.10(1)(a), Florida Statutes, defines unlawful employment practices as follows:
(1) It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer:
(a) To discharge or to fail or refuse to hire any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.
Section 760.02(7), Florida Statutes, defines an employer as follows:
(7) “Employer” means any person employing 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person.
In Patterson v. Consumer Debt Mgmt. & Educ., Inc., 975 So. 2d 1290, 1291 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008), Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal was confronted with whether to impose liability on employees/supervisors for alleged acts of discrimination under the FCRA. In Patterson, the employee filed a complaint against both the owner/officer and manager of several corporations, alleging sexual harassment under the FCRA. The employer filed a motion to dismiss because the FCRA does not impose individual liability.
The trial court granted the employer’s motion. The trial court held that the owner/officer and manager do not meet the definition of “employer.” They cannot be held individually liable under the FCRA. The employee appealed.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal cited to federal circuit court decisions holding there is no liability for individual employees/supervisors of corporate employers under Title VII and the FCRA. Following those federal court decisions, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision because the FCRA does not impose liability on employees/supervisors. They do not meet the definition of an “employer” under Section 760.02(7), Florida Statutes.
If you are in the process of defending yourself in a FCRA or Title VII lawsuit, or if you have general questions regarding the FCRA or Title VII, contact Fort Lauderdale employment lawyer Peter Mavrick.
The Fort Lauderdale employment litigation attorneys at the Mavrick Law Firm have successfully represented many businesses in FCRA and Title VII claims in the Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County areas encompassed by the Third and Fourth District Courts of Appeal, as well as Hillsborough, Sarasota, and other counties encompassed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeal. This article is not a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation. Peter T. Mavrick can be reached at: Website: www.mavricklaw.com; Telephone: 954-564-2246; Address: 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311.