Compliance Watch:
Penalties for Breaking Florida Labor Laws

February 15th 2024

Florida’s robust labor laws are designed to protect the rights and well-being of workers across the state. These laws cover various aspects such as minimum wage, overtime pay, workplace safety, discrimination and harassment prevention, and family and medical leave.

However, for employers, understanding and adhering to these regulations can sometimes be challenging. Failure to comply with Florida labor laws can result in penalties and fines that tarnish a company’s reputation and impose significant financial burdens.

In this article, we will explore the penalties for breaking Florida labor laws. We’ll also be sharing compliance strategies so you can take proactive steps to ensure compliance, foster a positive work environment, and avoid costly legal entanglements.

This Article Covers:

Most Common Labor Law Violations in Florida
Penalties for Breaking Florida Labor Laws
How You Can Avoid Violating Florida Labor Laws

Most Common Labor Law Violations in Florida

Labor law violations can come in many forms. And businesses may commit these violations either knowingly or unknowingly, leading to potential harm to the workers’ rights and well-being. Some common violations Florida businesses commit include:

  • Not paying at least the minimum wage: The minimum wage currently stands at $11 per hour in Florida. Some employers fail to provide workers with this required minimum wage, depriving them of fair compensation for their labor. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates indicate that nearly a quarter of workers in low-wage, minimum-wage-eligible positions in Florida encounter minimum wage violations, resulting in an annual loss of over $1.1 billion for workers in the state.
  • Wage theft: Certain employers engage in wage theft by withholding or deducting wages improperly, depriving workers of their hard-earned money. This can also happen when employees are not paid the bonuses or commissions both parties have agreed to.
  • Letting minors work dangerous jobs: While minors in Florida are not required to obtain work permits from schools or government agencies to work, there are some jobs they’re not allowed to do. Some companies violate child labor laws by allowing underage individuals to work in hazardous or restricted occupations, endangering their well-being. According to data from the US Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, Child labor violations in the US have been on the rise since 2015 after declining for years.
  • Sexual harassment: Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains an issue in the workplace, including in Florida. Some businesses fail to address and prevent misconduct, violating labor laws protecting employees from hostile work environments.
  • Retaliation against whistleblowers: Businesses may unlawfully retaliate against employees who report labor law violations, creating a culture of fear that discourages others from speaking up. Retaliation can include actions like termination, demotion, or adverse treatment.

A wooden gavel and block surrounded by dollar bills. Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

Penalties for Breaking Florida Labor Laws

As a business operating in Florida, you need to have some knowledge of the legal landscape. Because no matter how cliché it may sound, ignorance of the law excuses no one.

In The Sunshine State, several state and federal laws are in place to safeguard employees’ rights and well-being while providing a framework for fair and ethical employment practices. Here’s a look at these laws, along with the potential penalties for breaking them:

Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) of 1992

This state law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and other public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, sexual orientation, or marital status. The FCRA aims to ensure equal opportunities and protections for all individuals within the state of Florida.

Penalty for Violation

In civil actions related to discrimination, the court can issue an order to stop the discriminatory practice and provide affirmative relief, including back pay. The court can also award compensatory damages for intangible injuries, mental anguish, loss of dignity, and punitive damages. While punitive damages are limited to $100,000, there is no cap on compensatory damages for emotional trauma or pain and suffering under the FCRA.

Florida Whistleblower’s Act

The Florida Whistleblowers Act, found in Chapter 112 of the Florida Statutes, is a law designed to safeguard whistleblowers and their actions. It aims to prevent agencies or independent contractors from retaliating against employees who report illegal activities. This statute applies to public officers, their employees, and private employers and employees. It ensures protection for whistleblowers who report illegal activities or gross mismanagement under local law.

The law prohibits agencies or contractors from dismissing, disciplining, or taking adverse personnel actions against those who disclose such information. It also forbids retaliatory action that may negatively impact the rights or interests of individuals disclosing information.

Penalty for Violation

If an employee experiences any negative consequences for reporting unlawful conduct, they have the right to file a complaint within 180 days. They can do so by informing their supervisors, reaching out to the Florida Commission on Human Relations, or contacting the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s whistleblower hotline at the Department of Legal Affairs. By submitting a complaint, they can participate in a hearing and potentially receive compensation for lost benefits, attorney’s fees, and other applicable damages.

The defendant could face an order to pay the state an amount up to three times the actual harm caused, along with a fine ranging from $5,500 to $11,000 per violation.

Recordkeeping Laws

Employers in Florida are required to comply with both state and federal recordkeeping requirements. This includes the following:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Requirements

Private companies should retain personnel and employment records for one year, while educational institutions and state/local governments should retain them for two years. These records include information on applicants, such as applications, resumes, screening process details, interview transcripts, and testing records.

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Payroll records must be retained for at least three years under the ADEA and FLSA. This includes information related to wages, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, collective bargaining agreements, and any other records explaining the basis for different wages between employees of opposite sexes in the same establishment.

Penalty for Violation

Not keeping the records required by the FLSA can lead to penalties. While the Department of Labor cannot impose civil monetary penalties for recordkeeping violations, willful law violators can face criminal sanctions. Criminal sanctions may involve fines up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.

Minimum Wage Laws

At the moment, the minimum wage in Florida is $12 per hour. 

Florida law necessitates that tipped employees receive a minimum cash wage of $7.98 per hour as long as the employee’s total hourly earnings, including tips, equal or exceed the state minimum wage of $11 per hour. If the employee’s earnings fall below the minimum wage, employers must make up the difference. However, the employer can take a tip credit of up to $3.02 per hour from the employee.

Penalty for Violation

Suppose an employee does not receive the legal minimum wage despite notifying their employer and allowing 15 days for resolution. In that case, they can take legal action to recover unpaid wages, damages, and attorney’s fees. Employers who intentionally violate minimum wage requirements may face a fine of $1,000 per violation payable to the state. The Attorney General or an authorized official may initiate legal action to enforce the minimum wage.

FLSA Overtime Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that regulates time management, minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and accurate recordkeeping. Overtime is 1.5 times the regular rate for those exceeding 40 hours per week. Some job categories may be exempt from overtime based on job description and salary.

To dig deeper into overtime regulations in the state, check out our comprehensive guide on Florida overtime laws.

Penalty for Violation

Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the overtime pay requirements as established by FLSA are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $1,000 for each such violation.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA is a federal law that manages time in the workplace. It allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family and medical reasons, like childbirth or caring for a family member with a serious health condition. Employers must maintain health benefits during leave and reinstate employees to their previous or equivalent positions upon return. 

FMLA-covered employers must also display a notice explaining the law and provide complaint filing information with the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division.

Penalty for Violation

The Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the FMLA for all private, state, and local government employees and some federal employees. If violations cannot be satisfactorily resolved, the US Department of Labor may bring an action in court to compel compliance. If the court rules in favor of the complainant, they may order employers to let the complainant take their FMLA leave and reward them with monetary damages, including attorney fees and court costs.

As for the failure to display an FMLA notice in the workplace, the maximum penalty has increased from $189 to $204.

Child Labor Laws

Minors in Florida are not required to obtain work permits or papers from schools or government agencies to work. This can make it easier for minors to start working and gain valuable experience without having to deal with complicated bureaucratic processes.

However, while Florida does not require work permits for minors, it does regulate other aspects of child labor, such as working hours, breaks, and other related policies. Florida law says that all kids under 18 who work for more than four hours straight must get a 30-minute break for lunch, whether they are in school or not.

Some jobs are thought to be dangerous for minors and are banned by law. These hazardous occupations are classified into two categories, namely:

  • Occupations that are prohibited for all minors. These include building construction, working with toxic substances, and operating power-driven machinery, among others.
  • Occupations that are prohibited for minors aged 14 and 15. These include heavy work in the building trades, working in freezers or meat coolers, and working with snake pits, among others.
Penalty for Violation

According to Florida law, employment of minors in violation of Florida Child Labor laws may result in fines up to $2,500 per offense and/or guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor. The FLSA can also impose a civil money penalty of up to $10,000 for each young worker who was employed in violation.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration Laws

OSHA ensures that private sector employers and workers in Florida are safe and healthy. It is the responsibility of every private-sector employer to provide their employees with a work environment that is free of hazards. Authorities are permitted to enter workplaces during working hours to ensure that all regulations are being followed as stated in the act.

Penalty for Violation

If an employer violates the provisions of the act and fails to provide a secure work environment to employees, he may face penalties ranging from $5,000 to $70,000 for each violation under OSHA Penalties.

How You Can Avoid Violating Florida Labor Laws

The penalties mentioned above should not be taken lightly. To avoid violating labor laws in Florida and ensure compliance with the state’s regulations, you can take several proactive measures.

Tip #1: Implement a Reliable Time Tracking Software

Compliance starts with using the right time-tracking software. These tools can help you accurately record employee work hours, breaks, and any necessary overtime. It can also automate the process, minimize human error, and provide a transparent and reliable record of hours worked.

For a free and reliable solution, it’s worth checking out the Jibble time tracking software.

Tip #2: Pay Employees Properly

Ensure that you pay employees at least the minimum wage required by both federal and Florida laws. Track and record all hours worked, including any overtime hours, and pay employees accordingly. Familiarize yourself with the rules surrounding overtime pay to avoid violations.

Tip #3: Maintain Accurate Employment Records

Keep detailed records of employee information, including hours worked, wages paid, and employment contracts. Accurate recordkeeping is essential for demonstrating compliance with labor laws and can help resolve disputes should they arise.

Tip #4: Stay Informed

Labor laws can change over time, so it’s crucial to stay informed about any updates or amendments. Regularly consult reliable sources such as the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity or consult with legal professionals to ensure you remain compliant.

Tip #5: Seek Professional Guidance

If you have questions or concerns about complying with Florida labor laws, it’s wise to consult an employment attorney or human resources professional. They can provide tailored advice based on your specific circumstances and help you navigate complex legal requirements.

Important Cautionary Note

The penalties for breaking Florida labor laws mentioned in this article are potential consequences under the FLSA and related statutes. However, actual penalties depend on the violation severity and the decision of the court or relevant authorities. The information provided in this article is intended to be informative but should not be considered legal advice.

Laws and regulations can change, so it’s advisable to consult employment attorneys or consultants for current and personalized guidance in your circumstances and jurisdiction. Learn more about Florida Labor Laws through our detailed guide.