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“Employers, did you know … Hillsborough County has a Human Rights Ordinance that prohibits discrimination and retaliation?”

By December 29, 2017January 4th, 2018No Comments

By: Kelly Charles-Collins, Esquire

Florida employers are usually aware of the federal laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation, such as Title VII, the American with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Many are also aware of the state law, the Florida Civil Rights Act. But very few are aware that many counties and cities have their own human rights ordinances, which apply to employers with as few as five (5) employees. One such ordinance is the Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance (“Ordinance”).

What are the protected categories? The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on race, color, gender/sex, age (includes under age 40), national origin, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

What practices are prohibited? It is a discriminatory practice to:

  • Fail or refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment; or
  • Limit, segregate, or classify an employee or applicant for employment in a way which would deprive or tend to deprive, limit, or adversely affect an individual’s employment opportunities or status as an employee.
  • Fail to make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified person with disability who is an applicant or employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship;
  • Deny employment opportunities to an applicant or employee who is an otherwise qualified person with disability, if such denial is based on the need to make reasonable accommodation to the applicant or employee.
  • Prohibited pre-employment examination or inquiry – conduct a medical examination or make inquiries of an applicant as to whether such applicant is a person with disability or as to the nature or severity of such disability.
    • However, employers may:
      • make pre-employment inquiries into the ability of an applicant to perform job-related functions, and
      • require a medical examination after an offer of employment has been made to an applicant and prior to the commencement of the employment duties of such applicant, and
      • condition an offer of employment on the results of such examination, if:
        • all entering employees are subjected to such an examination, regardless of disability; and
        • information obtained regarding the medical condition or history of the applicant is collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and is treated as a confidential medical record.
      • Prohibited post-employment examination or inquiry – require a medical examination or make inquiries of an employee as to whether such employee is a person with disability or as to the nature or severity of the disability, unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
        • However, employers may:
          • conduct voluntary medical examinations which are part of an employee health program available to employees at that work site; and
          • may make inquiries into the ability of an employee to perform job-related functions.
  • Retaliate or discriminate against a person because the person has opposed a discriminatory practice, or because the person has made a charge, filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this article.
  • Aid, abet, incite, or coerce a person to engage in an unlawful discriminatory practice.
  • Willfully interfere with the performance of a duty or the exercise of a power by the Human Relations Board or one of its staff members or representatives.
  • Willfully obstruct or prevent a person from complying with this Ordinance or an order issued pursuant to this Ordinance.

Which employers are covered? Employers with (1) five or more employees working thirty (30) or more hours per week are covered by the ordinance; or (2) more than 15 or more employees irrespective of the number of hours worked per week in each of 13 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar years and any agent of such person.

Who is eligible to file a claim? Employees must live in unincorporated Hillsborough County, Temple Terrace, or Plant City.

What is the cost for filing a claim? There is no cost to an employee to file a claim.

What is the timeframe for filing a complaint? Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory practice.

What remedies are available to the employee? If, after a hearing, it is determined that a violation of the Ordinance occurred, an employee will be awarded back pay and attorney’s fees as part of any cost award.

Are there any additional penalties to the employer? Any person who violates the Ordinance, shall be subject, upon conviction, to a fine up to but not exceeding $500.00, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 60 days, or both a fine and imprisonment.

What agency handles complaints under the Ordinance? Equal Opportunity Administrator’s Office (EOA), 700 E. Twiggs Street, Suite 830, Tampa, FL 33602.

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