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Monday, March 27, 2017

New Bills In Florida That Will Impact #Employees If Passed

The Florida legislature is in session through May. They may or may not pass some legislation that will affect employees and employment law. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Here are some of the bills to watch:

SB 160 - Minimum WageRevising the formula for the adjusted state minimum wage, etc.  See HB 945. This is an attempt to slowly bring Florida's minimum wage up to a living wage by adjusting an extra $1 - $1.50 per year until 2021. Since Republicans hate the minimum wage to begin with, it won't pass. 

SCR 194:  The annual and inevitably failing attempt to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Sigh.

HB 319Discrimination in Labor and EmploymentCreates "Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act." This bill, which won't pass. would add gender identity to the categories of illegal discrimination, prohibit pay and other discrimination based on sex and gender identity,  and prohibit employers from punishing employees for discussing and comparing wages and benefits. 

HB 443Verification of Employment EligibilityRequires employers to use E-Verify system to verify employment eligibility; prohibits employer from knowingly or intentionally employing unauthorized alien. This bill really has more of an impact on employers, and criminalizes the hiring of illegal aliens. However, it will make it more difficult for anyone with an accent or foreign-sounding name to get a job if employers become skittish about possible jail time for a bad hiring decision. This one has a shot at getting passed as we continue anti-immigrant fever in this country, but I'm guessing the Chambers and business interests will freak out and oppose it. My prediction is it probably won't pass.

HB 623Prohibited DiscriminationProvides that sexual orientation & gender identity are impermissible grounds for discrimination, provides exception for constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.  Related bills are SB 666, HB 659, SB 742. Despite the fact that major corporations and business interests support this, and the fact that it will be good for Florida's tourism and economic interests, this has failed every time it has been attempted. It will fail again.

HB 1255Florida Commission on Human Relations. This bill would adjust quorum requirements for the Commission and would make clear that the statute of limitations for suing for discrimination is 4 years from the date of discrimination, which is the law now but is continually the subject of litigation. Mostly, it guts the discrimination provisions regarding private clubs. It could pass.

HB 7047: Would deregulate/change regulations regarding a huge list of professions, including labor organizations.

Guns in workplaces: There is a giant batch of pro-gun legislation pending that could well pass, and it will affect workplace safety and also employee rights to carry. These bills include the right to bring guns to colleges and universities, passenger terminals of airports, public meetings, basically anywhere, career centers,  athletic events of schools and colleges,  the Florida legislature (okay, this would serve them right). Then there's SB 140 and SB 646 that would make Florida an open carry state. If business organizations aren't freaking out and screaming bloody murder, they should be. Can you imagine what will happen if a bunch of Floridians are running around with guns in all these places? Mayhem will ensue. And then there's the one that is the voice in the wilderness that would increase penalties for carrying weapons into schools and school events. It won't pass. Neither will the one adding public theaters and performing arts centers to the list of places you can't carry weapons.

Medical marijuana: Of the many bills relating to marijuana use, not one would protect employees from being fired for using prescribed marijuana, even the low THC kind. For shame.

SB 1208: Would add intentional touching in a lewd or lascivious manner the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks, or the clothing covering such areas to the crime of sexual battery, which could give sexual harassment victims more ammunition. It's by a Democrat so it probably won't pass.

SB 1148: Unemployment compensation. Would provide for an alternate base period for those currently being screwed out of unemployment benefits for arbitrary calendar reasons, would punish employers who refuse to give wage/employment info (which happens all the time now and delays unemployment benefits by weeks or months) and would add to the reasons an employee can resign and still get benefits. There is no way this will pass. Florida has done everything it can to screw people out of their unemployment benefits and will continue to do so.

HB 575: Threats to kill or do bodily harm. This one will affect many employees. It makes it a felony to post on the Internet or in social media, as well as email, etc. any threat to kill or do bodily harm. This means anyone who posts, "I could just kill my boss for what happened today," or "I could just strangle my coworker," whether or not there was any intent to do the harm and whether or not it was just venting, could face felony charges. This bill could be crazy overbroad and could result in lots of employees ending up in handcuffs. Right now, the threat has to be made to the actual person. Now, if anyone else sees the threat you can be prosecuted.

HB 561: Providing for a veteran's preference tax credit, which may help veterans get employment.

HB 31: Would "ban the box" and prohibit employers from asking about arrests/convictions and from refusing to interview based on criminal arrests and convictions. They can still do background checks once a conditional offer of employment is made. It won't pass.

SB 126: Would loosen the state's anti-nepotism laws. Somebody has a relative who needs a job. Could it be somebody who also wants to turn the state into the wild west? Could be.

HB 11: Would make it way easier to decertify labor organizations/labor unions. It will probably pass.

The good news is there are no bathroom bills this year. Will the legislature do anything to help employees this year? Not likely. I'll let you know if they do.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.