2017 Florida Legislative Scorecard for Labor and Employment Laws
By: Melissa A. Santalone
In its 2017 legislative session, both houses of the Florida Legislature introduced bills on a wide array of topics that, were they to become law, would affect the interests of Florida employers in numerous ways. Over all, most employment-related bills failed, but their mere introduction should place employers on notice of changes on the horizon. Here are the key bills that were introduced, grouped by those that passed and failed:
- Contractors on State-Funded Projects: Both houses introduced bills prohibiting the State, counties, and cities from mandating contractors on State-funded public works projects to provide certain benefits to their employees or pay certain wages. The House version was passed and the law went into effect July 1, 2017.
- Medical Marijuana: This law codified Amendment 2, which Florida voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of in the 2016 election, that legalized medical marijuana by Constitutional Amendment. We discussed the Amendment in detail here, and the law reflects the contents of the Amendment.
- Raising the Minimum Wage: The Senate introduced a bill that would have slowly raised the Florida minimum wage, currently $8.10 per hour, by $1.00-1.50 per year through 2021. The bill died in Committee.
- Wage Discrimination: Both houses introduced bills that would have broadened protections against wage discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity and made it easier for women to sue over being paid less than male colleagues for the same work. Both bills died in Committee or Subcommittee.
- LGBT Anti-Discrimination: The House introduced a bill that would have amended the Florida Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, and would have made it impermissible to discriminate on these bases in other contexts such as housing. The bill died in the Careers and Competition Subcommittee.
- Verification of Employment Liability: The House introduced a bill that would have required employers to use the E-Verify system to verify the legal employment eligibility of new hires and prohibited an employer from knowingly or intentionally employing unauthorized aliens, imposing fines and suspensions and losses of license to do business in Florida for violations. The bill died in Subcommittee.
- Gun Liability: Both houses introduced bills that would have created a cause of action against businesses and other organizations that prohibited those with concealed-carry gun permits from bringing firearms onto their premises if the permit-holder could demonstrate he or she was injured by a person or animal on the premises and the injury could have been prevented had the permit-holder not been disarmed. Both bills died in Committee or Subcommittee.
- Public-Sector Unions: Both houses introduced bills that would have automatically decertified public-sector labor unions, except those for police, firefighters, and corrections officers, if they failed to collect dues from at least 50% of the workers they represented. Both bills died in Committee or Subcommittee.
- Workers’ Compensation Attorney’s Fees: Both houses introduced bills that would have capped attorney’s fees for injured workers at $150 per hour (House bill) or $250 per hour (Senate bill). Each bill passed its respective house, but died as the houses tried to reach a compromise on the rate.
Florida employers should keep an eye out next year for many similar issues in the failed bills to be taken up again by the Legislature. Contact Melissa A. Santalone at [email protected] if you have any questions about the current status of any Florida labor and employment law.