Miami Employment Law Attorney
We Possess More than 30 Years of Experience
Employment law is one of our firm’s oldest practice areas. Our founding attorney, Santiago J. Padilla, started his illustrious career as an employment law attorney in 1990 and has handled hundreds of cases under various federal discrimination laws, civil rights laws, and wage and hour laws.
We know firsthand how issues involving labor and employment law can affect companies and workers. Our law firm represents both employees and employers and is here to provide reliable legal advice regarding separation agreements, employee manuals, employment eligibility matters, and more.
We also advise companies on matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Employment Law Matters We Handle
We are dedicated to using our skills and resources to resolve complicated disputes and protect our clients’ best interests both in and out of the courtroom.
We advise business owners, employees, and investors in the following areas of employment law:
- Wage and hour claims: We help clients across Florida file wage and hour claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours during a workweek at a rate of at least one and a half times the employee's regular rate.
- Discrimination claims: Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers cannot discriminate because of sex, pregnancy, national origin, race, or religion. Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with Title VII. This includes employment agencies, labor unions, and state and local governments. Title VII applies to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, training, and any other decisions of employment.
- Sexual harassment claims: Unwelcome sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII if it unreasonably interferes with a person's work performance. Sexual harassment includes requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and other verbal comments or physical conduct of a sexual nature. A victim can be any person affected by the offensive conduct, even someone who overhears it. The harassment does not have to be directed at a person to be actionable.
- Retaliation claims: It is illegal to retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint regarding a labor or safety violation. An employer cannot fire, demote, harass, or treat adversely any employee engaged in protected activity, such as complaining about harassment or a hostile work environment.
- Whistleblower claims: Florida's Whistleblower Act makes it illegal for an employer to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise retaliate against an employee for objecting to or refusing to participate in any activity, policy, or practice of the employer that violates a law, rule, or regulation.
- Family and medical leave claims: The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides that qualified employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period for a serious health issue or the birth and care of a newborn child or immediate family member with a serious medical condition.
Reliable Counsel for Employment & Separation Agreements
Under Florida law, the employer-employee relationship is covered by the employment-at-will doctrine. This means that the relationship exists as long as it is the will of the parties. Under this doctrine, an employee can be terminated for any reason or no reason. The employer does not need to justify or articulate the reason. No written justification for the employment decision needs to be given to the employee.
However, the employment-at-will doctrine can be voided if an employee and employer enter into an agreement that provides for the nonapplication of the doctrine. Not all employment agreements eliminate the doctrine. The agreement must specifically state that the employment relationship is not at will.
Employment agreements generally provide that the employee can be terminated before the end of the term only for "good cause" or "just cause," both of which are usually defined in the agreement. Employment agreements also generally provide for specific notice of termination (for example, 30 days) and minimum severance pay for termination before the expiration of the term.
Separation or termination agreements usually provide for the payment of a severance amount, a release of liability with respect to actions of the employer, and confidentiality and nondisclosure obligations with which the employee must comply. These agreements can also provide for continuing obligations on the part of the employer, such as the payment of health insurance for a certain period of time after termination.
FAQ: Independent Contractor Disputes
The Law Offices of Santiago J. Padilla, P.A. has extensive experience with independent contractor issues. Whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee can have significant ramifications for a business. For example, only employees are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act and employment discrimination laws. Also, employers must pay employment taxes for employees, but not for independent contractors.
Question #1: How do I determine independent contractor or employee status?
A: Determining whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee requires complex analysis. It is not based on whether the individual signed an agreement or received a Form 1099-Misc. Courts have generally stated that the employer-employee relationship is tested by "economic reality" and not by applying technical concepts. There is no single test for determining whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor. The facts and circumstances of each case must be carefully examined.
Question #2: Does an independent contractor have the same rights and duties as an employee?
A: An independent contractor does not have the same rights and duties as an employee. For example, an independent contractor often has the right to choose where and when to perform the work (unless the contractor has agreed to specific locations and times required by the business). An employee must be at work where and when the employer requires. Of course, an independent contractor is obligated to perform the work to the standards and schedule set by the business. Independent contractors, unlike employees, must pay their own taxes.
Question #3: Does it matter who pays the wages?
A: It is generally immaterial who pays the individual, such as in the case of an individual paid by a payroll company or a staffing company. Florida courts have reiterated time and again that what matters is the substance of the relationship, not the form of the relationship as indicated by documents signed by the parties.
Unemployment Compensation Cases
At the Law Offices of Santiago J. Padilla, P.A., we provide representation for employees and employers in unemployment compensation cases. Unemployment payments are meant to help someone who has lost a job other than through misconduct to cover expenses while seeking a new job. Any person who is unemployed or partially unemployed and was employed by an employer in Florida for the last 18 months before losing a job can file a claim for unemployment compensation.
Under Florida employment law, employees are entitled to unemployment compensation, except if the individual voluntarily left without good cause or was discharged for misconduct connected with the work. Misconduct that would disqualify an employee from compensation includes "carelessness or negligence of such a degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or the employee's duties and obligations to their employer."
Poor judgment is not enough to constitute misconduct connected with the work. If you have been denied unemployment compensation but feel entitled to it, you can appeal the denial to the state unemployment commission. If the appeal is denied, you can hire a lawyer to represent the claim in court.
Why Clients Across Miami Choose the Law Offices of Santiago J. Padilla, P.A.
Our firm’s philosophy is to provide the same high-quality legal services that are offered at major law firms to individuals of all backgrounds, as well as small and mid-sized business clients. We make it our priority to offer stellar legal representation at more cost-effective rates than large law firms. We also strive to connect with each of our clients on a personal level to ensure we deliver the customized and compassionate service they deserve. When you choose our firm to represent you, you can count on us to promptly address your concerns and provide consistent feedback and updates on your case.