We’ve looked at how quite a few different states have changed the maximum benefit payment that workers can get when they’re out on a workers’ comp disability or injury. These maximum benefit payments are meant to help compensate the worker for their lost wages while they are stuck at home and unable to return to their jobs because of the injuries or illness that they sustained while they were on the job.
Florida is not different. Made effective as of January 1, 2007, the Agency for Workforce Innovation in the state of Florida has changed the statewide maximum weekly compensation benefit rate to be $724 per week. They got this calculation by determining the weekly average wage paid out by employers who are subject to the Unemployment Compensation Law in the state for the first four business quarters ending June 30, 2006. That total was $724.23. The Agency for Workforce Innovation then rounded that total to the nearest dollar. All of this mathematics is done according to the section 440.12 (2) of the Florida Statutes.
That is not a sum to be sneezed at by any means, and for most employees, they would be more than happy to earn that amount of money during a week for working on the job, let alone for sitting at home and recuperating. But the question must be asked about really highly paid employees at your company—or for you yourself. What if you get disabled on the job and are unable to work. If you make six figures or more a year at your job, how can you expect this weekly maximum amount of money to sustain you and your family while you are disabled.
These questions go beyond the realm of standard workers’ comp law in Florida, or any state for that matter. That’s something you need to talk over with your insurance company and broker, and with other leaders at your company. It could be that you need a special disability insurance just for the leaders at your company.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1986 introduced the I 9 forms. The act provided amnesty for many illegal aliens who had been living and working in the U.S. for years. In addition, it transferred some of the responsibility for ensuring that employees were legally able to work in the U.S., from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (INS) to the employer. The act includes provisions addressing employment eligibility, employment verification and nondiscrimination. These provisions apply to every employer.
Immigration reform is in the news lately, but employers would be wise to continue to be vigilant about obtaining completed I-9 forms from new employees. Employers who fail to obtain proper documentation from new employees can be fined up to $200,000 per instance.
Most employers have employees complete the I-9 on their first scheduled day of work, before clocking in. The employee must note on the form if they are legally entitled to work in the U.S. They must also provide identification, for the employer to photocopy. Normal forms of identification would be a state-issued photo I.D. or driver’s license, plus a social security card. Immigrants can provide an alien registration card (also called a “green card”) instead.
I-9 forms are to be kept on file for three years. If an employee is fired or quits in less than three years, the form is to be kept at least 1 year after the termination.
Under the law, employers may hire only persons who can legally work in the U.S. This includes citizens and nationals of the U.S. and aliens authorized to work in the U.S. The employer must verify the identity and employment eligibility of anyone to be hired, which includes completing the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9).
The INA protects U.S. citizens and aliens authorized to accept employment in the U.S. from discrimination in hiring or discharge based on national origin and citizenship status. The law applies equally to every potential employee, regardless of race, color, country of origin or languages spoken. In particular, employers should not use the INA law and the I-9 form as a way to discriminate against Hispanic or other employees. Nor should the I-9 be used solely for employees for whom English is a second language.
The list of federal laws dealing with employment issues is vast and varied. The federal laws usually act as a basis for the laws that the individual states create. In some cases the states do not have a law pertaining to a certain issue and then the federal law would apply. The federal laws in some form or another affect all employers and workers. Usually in cases where state and federal law differs the stricter of the two would apply.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to Federal labor and employment laws and what is required of employers and what is not. I have done some research and will try to clarify a few of the most common misconceptions and popular issues. Many people think that the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA pertains to leave benefits and this is simply not true. The FLSA sets basic standards for minimum wage and overtime pay. These laws do not require Vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay, meal or rest periods, holidays off, or vacations, premium pay for weekend or holiday work, pay raises or fringe benefits.
Another one of the most popular federal labor and employment laws is the Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA. This act allows for an unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks for certain medical conditions and family situations. The birth or adoption of a child is one example. The act also allows for an employee to take this time if they are needed to care for an immediate family member who is ill.
There are quite a few Federal labor and employment laws pertaining to wage payment in addition to the FLSA. Regulation of the employment of minors and child labor is one of the strictest and most heavily enforced aspects of Federal labor and employment laws.
Florida, like every other state, has specific requirements when it comes to labor law posters. Florida posters need to be posted in a very visible location in the workplace where the employees are likely to see it. This means that work rooms, break rooms, mail rooms or anywhere else that the employees are likely to visit on a daily or at least a regular basis would be sufficient.
Florida posters are so important for many reasons. First of all, many employees do not have access to the laws posted on the Florida posters in any other form or location. Secondly, they inform employees of their rights and responsibilities in the workplace and also give the proper protocol for filing complaints or seeking help if they feel their rights have been violated. Finally, employers benefit from the posters as well because they tell employers exactly what their responsibilities are in terms of keeping the workplace lawful. For example, the Florida posters outline the child labor laws, so by reading and referencing these posters, Florida employers will know exactly what they need to do to stay lawful when employing minors.
There are several state laws that must be posted on or as a part of the Florida Posters. These include information on minimum wage, discrimination, anti-fraud notices, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, equal opportunity and child labor. Federal laws also must be posted as well. These include USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law, Federal Minimum Wage, Employee Polygraph Protection Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and OSHA – Job Safety and Health Protection and the Migrant and Seasonal Agriculture Worker Protection.
Labor laws frequently change and the Florida posters in your workplace need to reflect these changes. It’s up to the employers to make sure they have the most current laws posted on their posters. Also, many laws in Florida need to be posted in both English and Spanish, so employers need to also make sure that they are using the correct Florida posters according to the law.
Recently, I’ve been reviewing the laws related to lunches, breaks and other work hour issues. I think it is interesting to note that Florida does not have any laws on the books specifically related to this area, except those pertaining to minors. Florida law requires that minors under age 18 must be given an uninterrupted meal or rest period of at least 30 minutes for each four hours they have continuously worked.
Although Florida does not have a lunch and break law for those persons 18 and over, there are applicable federal rules for Florida citizens. While Federal Law does not mandate specific breaks or meal periods, it does give guidance as to whether or not an employee should be paid during these times. Short breaks are usually 20 minutes or less, and should be counted as hours worked. Genuine “meal periods” are usually 30 minutes or more, and do not need to be compensated as work time. For this to be the case, however, the worker must be completely relieved of his or her duties during the meal break. If the employee is still required to do any duties (even minor duties such as answering a phone), it can’t be considered a meal or lunch period and must be paid.
Federal law also contains other provisions related to employee pay during times of waiting, sleeping and traveling. Whether or not waiting time needs to be considered paid work hours depends on the situation. If an employee is allowed to do something of his or her choosing while waiting for another task to be finished or while waiting at the workplace for his or her services to be called upon, it is generally considered work time. On the other hand, if an employee is waiting to be called upon, but has great freedom to do what he or she wishes while on call (and has plenty of time to respond to the call), it is not generally considered paid work time.
When it comes to sleeping time, employees required to be on duty less than 24 hours is considered to be “working” even if he or she is permitted to sleep during some of those hours when not busy. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping quarters are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.
Finally, another issue I find comes up in the area of work hours is the issue of travel time. The general rule of thumb is that time spent in the normal day’s commute to and from work is not considered paid working time. However, if an employee is traveling in the course of a days work, it must be considered paid work time.
Complete information on the laws related to lunches, breaks and other pertinent labor issues can be found on the Florida Complete Labor Law Poster. This poster offers all the required postings for both federal and state labor laws.