How to File an Employment Lawsuit in Florida: Suing for Discrimination

enforcing employment law in Florida

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says in its Annual Performance Report that the agency received 81,055 new charges of discrimination in fiscal year 2023, a 10% increase over the number of charges filed in fiscal year 2022. EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows called the volume of discrimination claims filed with the EEOC, a significant increase compared with prior fiscal years.

The effects of discrimination in the workplace can negatively affect employees’ perceptions of an organization’s culture, their opportunities, and their coworkers’ intentions. Workplace discrimination can also affect their feelings of psychological safety and belonging and their ability to do their best work.

The EEOC enforces employment laws, and its mission is to “Prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal employment opportunity for all.” To that end, the EEOC secured more than $665 million for victims of discrimination in FY 2023, including:

  • Approximately $440.5 million for 15,143 victims of employment discrimination in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation, and settlements.
  • Just over $22.6 million for 968 individuals in lawsuits.
  • More than $202 million for 5,943 federal employees and applicants.

If you have been treated unfairly, harassed, or retaliated against because of your race, sex, religious beliefs, disability, pregnancy, age, or another protected factor, you may be eligible to pursue a discrimination complaint against your employer. A Florida employment discrimination attorney at Cruz Law Firm, P.A., can review your case during a free consultation and discuss whether a discrimination claim is appropriate.

At Cruz Law Firm, P.A., our law firm is dedicated to representing employees in legal claims involving unjust treatment and discriminatory practices in the workplace. We’re known across the Florida Panhandle as the leading law firm for employment discrimination claims. With over 18 years of combined legal experience handling cases involving federal and state law, our employment law attorneys have a track record of prevailing in many of Florida’s toughest employment-related lawsuits. Contact us today for more information.

Legal Protection for Employees in Florida

Several federal laws enforced by the EEOC are intended to protect workers by prohibiting discrimination in the workplace:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against an employee because of their race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. It also requires employers to reasonably accommodate applicants’ and employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs as long as doing so would not impose an undue burden on the business.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII that prohibits discrimination against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires employers to pay men and women equal wages if they perform the same type of work for the same employer.
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees’ physical or mental limitations unless doing so would impose an undue burden on the employer.
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits discrimination against applicants or employees based on genetic information (such as a disease or disorder discovered through genetic testing).

Florida state law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability or handicap
  • Age
  • Marital status (single, married, divorced, widowed, etc.)
  • AIDS/HIV or
  • Sickle cell trait.

Federal and state laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against individuals who allege employment discrimination or pursue a federal discrimination claim.

Recognizing and Documenting Discrimination in the Workplace

Types of conduct that are considered employment discrimination include:

  • Unfair treatment, such as being denied a job, promotion, pay raises, or bonuses; being paid less than similarly-situated workers; being denied professional opportunities, such as attendance at professional seminars or conventions; or being assigned less-desirable tasks.
  • Harassment, such as subjecting an employee to offensive, belittling, or threatening behavior.
  • Denial of reasonable changes to working conditions, including accommodations for a disability, medical condition, pregnancy, or religious belief.
  • Inappropriate questions about a worker’s medical or genetic information.
  • Retaliation, or subjecting an employee to an adverse employment decision after they have exercised their rights or have helped a co-worker assert their rights.

You should contact a Florida employment lawyer as soon as possible if you have faced discrimination in the workplace. You should be ready to provide evidence of what has happened to you. To gather evidence, you should:

  • Keep written records. Save any email, texts, memos, post-it notes, or documents pertaining to your complaint, as well as any relevant photos, videos, or other documents. Make your own notes of when discrimination occurred, including the dates, times, locations, who was involved, who witnessed it, and details of what exactly happened.
  • File a report. Report what has happened to you to your employer’s HR or personnel office. Follow procedures as stated in employee manuals or other company material. Keep copies of everything.
  • Note witnesses. Write down the names of people who witnessed the alleged discriminatory action and how to contact them.
  • Save personal employment records. Keep copies of work records, such as schedules, performance appraisals, and notes to you individually from your supervisor. Keep anything that shows you do your job as you are expected to.

A discrimination complaint to the EEOC must be filed within 180 calendar days from the date that the alleged discrimination took place. The 180-day filing deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis.

A complaint to the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) must be filed no later than 365 days after the prohibited personnel action.

How to File a Discrimination Complaint

how to file an employment lawsuit in FloridaThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) cooperate with each other to process discrimination claims. Filing a discrimination case with both agencies is usually unnecessary as long as you tell the agency you choose that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other. A knowledgeable employment law attorney with Cruz Law can help determine the appropriate commission to submit your claim to and represent you during the process.

The EEOC investigates charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by federal employment discrimination law. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

A complaint to the EEOC may be filed:

  • Online through the EEOC’s Public Portal. When you submit an online inquiry, the EEOC will ask a few questions to help determine whether the EEOC is the right federal agency to handle your complaint involving employment discrimination.
  • At an EEOC Office. You can schedule an appointment through the  EEOC Public Portal. EEOC offices also have walk-in appointments, for which you should arrive as early in the day as possible. In Florida, the EEOC has a Miami District Office and a Tampa Field Office.
  • By mail. A letter to the EEOC should include:
  1. Your name, address, email, and telephone number.
  2. The name, address, email, and telephone number of the employer (or employment agency or union) you want to file your charge against.
  3. The number of employees employed there.
  4. A short description of the acts you believe were discriminatory (for example, you were fired, demoted, harassed).
  5. When the discriminatory actions took place.
  6. The reason you believe you were discriminated against (for example, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or as retaliation.
  7. Your signature. If your letter is not signed, EEOC will not investigate the complaint.

If the EEOC determines that discrimination has occurred, it may choose to resolve the case through mediation or by negotiating a voluntary settlement.

When cases cannot be resolved through negotiations or mediation, the EEOC will, in a small percentage of cases, file a lawsuit and litigate the case. If the EEOC declines to litigate an unresolved case, the individual who has sought relief from the EEOC may pursue an employment discrimination lawsuit independently.

How Our Employment Discrimination Lawyers Can Help

A Cruz Law employment lawyer can help you make your complaint to the EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations and ensure that you are heard and that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Filing an EEOC complaint means you are initiating a legal claim based on federal law that is complex and nuanced. The EEOC often concludes its investigations by issuing a Notice of Right to Sue letter, which gives you 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court. You will need a knowledgeable employment lawyer to file a federal employment discrimination lawsuit.

If your case goes to court, your employer will certainly be represented by counsel. To deny your complaint, they may try to blame you, which could damage your reputation and employability.

By contacting a Cruz Law attorney, as soon as you think you have a valid complaint, you will have experienced legal counsel who can help you develop a strong complaint with the EEOC and protect you from attacks on your reputation. This will ensure you have solid evidence to support you as your case moves forward.

Contact Our Florida Employment Discrimination Lawyers

If you are facing illegal discrimination in your workplace, Cruz Law can review your case and evaluate your legal options for pursuing compensation and accountability from your employer through an EEOC complaint. We represent employees in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and from across the Florida Panhandle.

Contact our Florida employment discrimination law firm today for a free and confidential consultation about your legal options, what to expect during the EEOC claims process, and how we can represent you and protect your rights during this difficult time.