In Florida, a victim of employment discrimination can file a discrimination claim based on the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA) with the Florida Commission for Human Relations (FCHR), the state agency enforcing anti-discrimination laws. Florida’s anti-discrimination statute offers protection from discrimination on the basis of factors also protected by federal law, such as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability (handicap), and genetic information. In addition, Florida law protects against discrimination based on marital status. (For information about filing a charge through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), see the Processing Claims with the EEOC blog article.)
Who can file a charge?
An employee or an applicant for employment may file a claim for discrimination with the FCHR. Under Florida law, anonymous complaints are not accepted.
Time limits, in general
A Florida claimant must file his or her state claim within 365 calendar days after the discrimination took place. However, claimants wishing to also file at a federal level must submit their claims within 300 calendar days of the discrimination event. (The time limit to file a whistleblower claim for employer retaliation in Florida is 60 days.)
Under Florida law, the FCHR must send a copy of the complaint to the alleged offender within 5 days of the filing of the complaint. The alleged offender will have 25 days from the date the complaint was filed with the FCHR to file an answer.
The FCHR has 180 days to investigate the claim. If, upon its investigation, the agency finds “reasonable cause” to believe that discrimination exists, it will notify the claimant. At this point, the claimant may bring a civil action for damages, request an administrative hearing, or request mediation.
A lawsuit against the employer must be brought within 1 year of the date in which FCHR gives notice of reasonable cause to the claimant. In any case, a discrimination lawsuit must be filed within four years of the alleged discriminatory action. If an administrative hearing is requested and granted, any redress provided by this process will be the sole remedy to the claimant. An administrative claim dismissal must be appealed within 35 days, or the claim will be barred.
If the FCHR makes a “no cause” determination, the claimant may still request an administrative hearing, but he or she must do so within 35 days. If FCHR fails to make a determination within 180 days, then the claimant may proceed as if the agency made a “reasonable cause” determination.
An aggrieved employee also has the option of requesting mediation. Mediation may result in a binding agreement, and if it does not, the claimant may still file suit or request an administrative hearing.
Where to file
The FCHR has a work sharing agreement in place with the EEOC to enable cooperation in the documenting and processing of charges of employment discrimination in Florida, without determining jurisdiction. Under this contract, the FCHR is known as a Fair Employment Practice Agency (FEPA), and it follows the terms of the contract to protect a claimant’s rights under federal and state law. Florida has a number of FEPA offices across the state to process and manage FCHR and EEOC claims. After a FEPA office is contacted, the claimant is often requested to complete a questionnaire. This starts the process of claim investigation.
Often, the filing of a discrimination claim, particularly determining the most appropriate jurisdiction to file it in (state and/or federal) can be confusing. Discrimination victims can find the assistance of a legal professional helpful when deciding whether to file a charge, when, how and where to file it, in order to preserve their rights and maximize a potential recovery. Legal counsel can also assist employers wishing to create a discrimination-free work environment through sound policies and training, or employers who find themselves in the difficult position of defending a discrimination charge at a state and/or federal level.
Whether you are an employer or employee, the Orlando employment law attorneys of Burruezo & Burruezo can assist you in assessing a discrimination situation, filing a claim, or in providing legal representation, if necessary. Click here to contact an attorney now.