Each year Florida legislators meet for just 60 days to propose and pass new laws. The Legislature is now in session through the end of April 2021. A number of employment-related bills have already been introduced – many are first proposed to lay the groundwork for possible passage years down the road and others are just wishes that may never be granted. In the rush of business, most proposed bills end up in the legislative graveyard. However, it is always interesting to see what proposals, if passed, would affect Florida’s workplaces.
Here are just a sampling of some of the employment-related bills currently pending in Tallahassee:
Discrimination in Labor and Employment – The Senator Helen Gordon Fair Pay Protection Act (House Bill 0107)
This bill would amend Florida’s private sector Whistleblower Act to prohibit discrimination and retaliation against any employee who discusses or discloses the employee’s own wages, asks about another employee’s wages, or requests the employer to provide a reason for the amount of the wages being paid. It would also prohibit an employer from relying on the wage or salary history of a current, former or prospective employee in determining the wages for that individual. It would prohibit asking for the wage history of a current, former or prospective employee as a condition of being interviewed, as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment or as a condition of extending an employment offer.
The bill also has extension restrictions and protections against discrimination in pay based on sex.
Unlawful Employment Practices – Senate Bill 0384
This bill seeks to amend the Florida Civil Rights Act to prohibit, among other things, discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related condition including lactation or the expression of breastmilk. It would require reasonable changes in the workplace to accommodate pregnant employees including; (a) providing more frequent or longer breaks; (b) assistance with manual labor; (c) temporary job restructuring or temporary modification work schedules; (d) seating or equipment; (e) temporary relief from lifting requirements; (f) temporary transfer to less strenuous or less hazardous work and reasonable time off to recover from childbirth.
The bill would also make it unlawful to deny employment opportunities to a qualified job applicant or employee, if such denial is based on the employer‘s need to make reasonable accommodation for the applicant or employee because of a medical need related to pregnancy. It also prohibits employers from requiring an employee to take leave because of a medical need related to pregnancy if another reason accommodation can be provided.
Prohibited Discrimination Based on Hairstyle – The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (the “CROWN” Act) (House Bill 0179)
This proposed bill would prohibit employment discrimination based on a “protective hairstyle”. Protective hairstyle means hair characteristics historically associated with race, such as hair texture and styles, including, but not limited to, braids, locks or twists.
Reemployment Assistance – House Bill 0207
This bill would amend Florida’s unemployment compensation statute to allow an employee to quit for a good cause and still collect unemployment compensation. Good cause would include: an illness or disability which requires separation from work; domestic violence or sexual assault that causes an employee a reasonable belief that his or her continued employment would jeopardize the safety of the employee or the employee’s immediate family member; illness or disability of the employee’s spouse, parent, minor child, or sibling or any person residing in the same residence as the employee; the employee’s need to relocate to accompany his or her spouse if the spouse’s relocation resulted from a change in the spouse’s employment and it makes it impracticable for the employee to commute to his or her workplace; or having an unpredictable, erratic, or irregular working schedule.
This bill would also not disqualify unemployment benefits to those applicants who are rejected for offered employment as a direct result of a positive drug test.
Regulation of the Medical Use of Marijuana – House Bill 1411
If passed, this bill would prohibit public sector employers from taking any adverse personnel action against any employee or job applicant who is a qualified patient using medical marijuana, unless the public sector employer could show by a preponderance of the evidence that the use of marijuana is impairing the employee‘s ability to perform his or her job responsibilities. It would not prohibit a public sector employer from taking adverse personnel action against employee if it would require the employer to commit any act that would cause the employer to violate federal law or that would result in the loss of a federal contract or federal funding.
We will provide an update on these and any other employment-related bills that make their way through the Legislature this session to become Florida laws.