Power Design, an electrical contractor that’s completed more than 1,000 projects nationwide, is facing a lawsuit in the District of Columbia, where officials claim the company illegally misclassified hundreds of workers to lower wages and avoid payroll taxes.

The suit claims that instead of classifying the workers as employees, the St. Petersburg-based company used two labor brokers to classify at least 535 electrical workers as independent contractors. As a result, the workers did not receive overtime, sick pay or, in dozens of cases, even the minimum wage, according to the lawsuit. 

“Power Design cheated hundreds of district workers out of their hard-earned wages and stripped them of their legal rights,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine said in an announcement of the suit. “When companies misclassify employees as independent contractors, they steal from their workers and gain an unfair advantage over competitors that follow the law.”

The District of Columbia’s Workplace Fraud Act requires construction companies to classify workers in most circumstances as employees who are paid at least a minimum wage, overtime and other benefits, officials said.

To classify a worker as an independent contractor, a construction company has to prove that the worker does the job independently, is typically self-employed and does work that falls outside the core business of the company.

Independent contractors must pay all their own taxes, are not protected by most labor laws and do not have access to workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance.

Racine’s office also sued JVA Services and DDK Electric, contending that the Maryland-based companies acted as labor brokers to help Power Design cut costs and avoid its legal responsibilities. Their primary business, officials said, involved supplying Power Design with an average of 30 to 40 workers, but in one case as many as 90, for its projects.

Officials said that from 2014 to 2017 Power Design worked at least 10 large construction projects in the District of Columbia, among them the edgy LINE hotel and several luxury apartment complexes. 

According to the lawsuit, the company:

  • Never listed the workers in question as employees on Power Design’s payroll.
  • Paid less than the district’s minimum wage of $10.50 per hour to 24 workers in early 2016 and less than the minimum of $11.50 per hour to 39 workers after it rose in the middle of that year.
  • Did not pay at least 180 workers overtime to which employees are entitled in 2017.
  • Did not provide any misclassified employees with sick leave.
  • Did not pay unemployment insurance tax for any of the misclassified workers.
  • Cut costs to the point that it could submit low bids that won contracts away from competitors who complied with the law.

The Attorney General’s Office said it is seeking to recoup tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid minimum wages and overtime for workers, tens of thousands of dollars more in unpaid unemployment insurance taxes.

It also is seeking penalties from $1,000 to $5,000 for each misclassified worker and each failure to keep payroll records, which officials said could add up to millions of dollars in penalties.

In April, Power Design was ranked No. 2 among large companies in the Times’ annual Top Workplaces survey.

In response to the survey, Power Design said it had 526 employees, more than 130 active projects, a 70,000-square-foot national headquarters facility in St. Petersburg’s Gateway area and accumulative revenue exceeding $1 billion. The company also made the Top Workplaces list from 2013 to 2017.

Just because your employer has classified you a certain way or given you a certain job title does not mean that you are classified correctly as far as the state and federal governments are concerned. In order to qualify for the protection of federal (FLSA) or state labor law, an individual must be classified as an “employee.” Companies will often classify workers as “independent contractors” so they can avoid federal requirements to pay overtime and federal minimum wage.

Many businesses prefer to have their work performed by independent contractors rather than employees in order to avoid employment taxes and employee benefit costs. Employees are entitled to benefits and legal protections that independent contractors are not.

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Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Flipper’s Pizza T. & B. Inc. – operating 11 Central Florida Flippers Pizzeria restaurants – has paid $27,425 in back wages to 70 employees for violating the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

The employer also paid $1,810 in civil money penalties for a child labor violation.

WHD investigators found the employer paid overtime-eligible assistant managers flat weekly salaries, without regard to the number of hours that they actually worked. This practice resulted in overtime violations when those employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek but were not paid overtime in addition to those salaries. 

Additional overtime violations resulted when the employer calculated overtime for tipped employees incorrectly, basing those rates on servers’ cash rates only. The law requires employers to pay tipped workers overtime at time-and-one-half of at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. WHD also found the employer employed a 17-year-old minor to operate a motor vehicle to make deliveries, a violation of FLSA child labor requirements. The employer also failed to maintain accurate payroll records.

“Businesses employing minors have a special responsibility to ensure the safety of these workers by not having them perform any duties deemed hazardous,” said Wage and Hour District Director Daniel White, in Jacksonville, Florida. “The Wage and Hour Division staffs local offices and provides online resources to assist employers in complying with the law. We encourage all employers to take advantage of these free compliance assistance resources, and to reach out to us with any questions.”

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Florida Law, any employee who works more than 40 hours in a workweek is entitled to compensation for the excess hours, either by:

  • Allowing or requiring the employee to take compensatory time off at the rate of 1.5 hours for each hour of overtime (government employees only) or
  • Receiving pay for overtime at the rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Our Orlando Unpaid Wage & Overtime Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have seen employers cheat their employees out of overtime pay using some pretty slick techniques. While these complex and difficult-to-prove methods might be hard to spot, there are three major ways in which employers violate overtime laws:

  1. An employer may fail to pay overtime wages at the rate required by Florida law.
  2. An employer may misclassify an employee as exempt (also known as salaried) and not pay overtime when the employee should be properly classified as non-exempt and eligible for overtime pay.
  3. An employer may demand or allow an employee to work “off the clock” without pay, when the employer should actually be paying overtime wages.

If your employer has tried any of these methods on you, or you believe they might be doing something else to short you on overtime pay, our Orlando Unpaid Overtime Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help. We want to expose their unlawful behavior and make sure you are paid what is owed to you. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, which enforces federal wage laws, lists these as top wage-theft industries:

  • Nursing
  • Casinos
  • Homecare
  • Nannies or Childcare
  • Restaurants
  • IT Workers
  • Construction
  • Retail
  • Oil and Gas Field Services
  • Security Guard Services
  • Call Centers

It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do. If you think your employer is cheating you out of your overtime pay or engaging in other wage theft, let us review your case. 

If you regularly work more than 40 hours per week without getting any overtime pay, your employer owes you a large sum of money. You are legally entitled to collect all unpaid overtime from your employer. Our Florida Employment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know how to help you recover the money that rightfully belongs to you. Let us evaluate your situation and determine what course of legal action is best. While it may seem like an insurmountable task to make an FLSA complaint about your employer, it is important to remember that employers cannot retaliate against you for exposing FLSA violations.

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Seven employees at the Florida Department of Health clinic in Haines City have spoken out publicly regarding being harassed by management for speaking Spanish at work.

They say they have been made to feel like criminals for simply speaking Spanish. 

The seven nurses and clerks at the Florida Department of Health clinic in Haines City are outraged over their workplace’s attitude towards them speaking their native language to each other.

The women are all Puerto Rican and say they were hired because they are bilingual. Haines City does have a high Hispanic population. 

Despite this, they say management has forbidden them to speak Spanish to each other.

They claim the harassment intensified in the last year, but has gone on much longer.

The women filed a complaint with the Polk County Health Department and have also reached out to the Tallahassee office. However, they say no action has been taken.

Activist groups like Alianza for Progress have taken notice and are stepping in to support the women.

The Florida Department of Health has yet to make an official statement regarding these complaints. 

Being verbally abused, intimidated, and/or harassed at work can be incredibly stressful and traumatic. This creates what is better known as a hostile work environment, and many employees who experience this kind of abuse from their employer or a coworker often feel like they have no options to end their suffering. That is simply not the case, and our Florida Discrimination Attornyes at Whittel & Melton can help you understand how to resolve these issues. We see too many victims of hostile work environments feel pressured to either quit their job or suffer through continued harassment and intimidation, but we can help to find you other options. 

Discrimination is defined by Florida state and federal law as the unfair and often hostile treatment of another individual based on their race, color, sexual orientation, or personal characteristics. In regards to Spanish speakers, they are often discriminated against because of their ethnicity and their cultural background. In the state of Florida and throughout the United States, discrimination in the workplace is against the law. When off-color comments or harassment about race happen in the workplace, this creates a hostile work environment. 

A lawsuit can be filed against your employer if they are allowing discrimination and harassment in the workplace to happen and fail to do anything about putting a stop to it. Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can take on various forms, so it is imperative to find an attorney in Florida who understands the rights of employees to review your case. 

There are several elements that must be present when it comes to hostile work environments based on discrimination lawsuits against your employer, inculding:

  • It must be shown that your employer is discriminating against you based on your religion, disability, race, color, or age in some way.
  • It must be shown that your employer’s behavior and actions have lasted for an extended period of time. With that said, you cannot sue your employer for one off-handed comment. Any and all incidents where your employer created a hostile work environment should be documented, recorded and filed with your company’s HR department.
  • Your employer’s actions must be consistent and severe enough to affect your ability to perform your everyday work duties. 
  • If your company has done nothing to eradicate issues of abuse or harassment, then you can move forward with legal action against your employer.

If you, your co-workers, or anyone else you kow has been the victim of a hostile work environment based on discrimination, it is in your best interest that you seek legal guidance from our Florida Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Meton who can guide you on filing a lawsuit against your employer for creating and facilitating a hostile work environment. We are Spanish-speaking Florida lawyers who can fight aggressively on your behalf to achieve a successful outcome for your case.  

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On Sunday, Afton Williamson, star of ABC’s ‘The Rookie,” announced she would not be returning to the drama starring Nathan Fillion.

The Rookie actress says she was the victim of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

The actress, who co-starred on the cop drama from showrunner Alexi Hawley (Castle), ABC Studios and Entertainment One, announced her departure from the show in a lengthy post on her verified Instagram account.

Williamson claims she experienced racial discrimination and racially charged inappropriate comments from the hair department as well as from the drama’s executive producers starting with the pilot and continuing throughout the show’s first season. What’s more, the actress says the harassment was reported to Hawley and the showrunner never passed it along to human resources. Her issues escalated into sexual assault during The Rookie’s wrap party, she said.

Sources say Entertainment One — the lead studio on The Rookie — launched and has an ongoing investigation into Williamson’s claims. It’s unclear if the investigation was opened before or after Williamson departed the show. News of her departure hit the press July 26 and sources say she made the decision to not return for season two a few days before that.

“The allegations involve a production from Entertainment One. In late June, eOne made us aware and informed us that they launched an investigation that is ongoing. The safety of working environments is a top priority for us, and we take this matter very seriously,” an ABC spokesperson said in a statement.

“We take claims of this nature very seriously. We have initiated an independent investigation which is ongoing and as such, it would not be appropriate to comment at this time,” eOne said in a statement of its own late Sunday afternoon.

Williamson’s full post from Instagram is below.

I will not be returning for Season 2 of The Rookie. I owe it to you my amazing fans to share the Truth. Throughout the filming of the pilot, I experienced Racial Discrimination/Racially Charged inappropriate comments from the hair department and bullying from Executive Producers. During the Season, it continued along with Sexual Harassment from a recurring guest star and the racist commentary & bullying from the Hair Dept. Head escalated into Sexual Assault at our Wrap party.The Sexual Harassment though reported directly to the Showrunner/EP remained undocumented and was not reported to HR as promised. The Hair Dept. Head was fired ONLY after the sexual assault and NOT for an entire year of outward racism/racially charged language and bullying behavior in and out of the Hair and Makeup trailer. HR protocol was never adhered to following the above reports given by me to my Showrunner/EP and an investigation was never issued for any of my claims. The only time I was asked to participate in an investigation was after a meeting I called in June following our Season 2 announcement. This meeting included the Showrunner and two other producers as well as my agent and SAG-AFTRA Union Rep. It was clear to all present in the meeting that the Showrunner had not shared my reports with the any of the producers. After my initial report of sexual harassment, I was assured that the actor would be fired. I was also asked to film with him the very next day as a courtesy to the script, even though we had not begun filming the episode yet. This actor reappeared on our call sheet at the end of the season, I was even written in scenes with him. I asked the Showrunner about this and he admitted to me that the actor had not been fired nor had he gotten HR involved. I was asked to return this season, and promised that “everything was handled.” The investigation hadn’t even begun and Season 2 had already started filming. I turned it down and I walked. Now is the best time in the world to be a woman and I have a platform so it’s time to use my Voice. Strength comes from within. It comes from Above. “Greater is He that is within Me than he that is in the world.”

Being able to work in an evironment that is free from discrimination and harassment of any kind is part of our basic human rights and freedoms. When unlawful conduct affects your employment, unreasonably interferes with your work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, our Florida Employment Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you recover financial compensation for your suffering.  

We routinely represent employees who have suffered discrimination based on their race, age, disability, taking of protected leave for medical reasons, or to care for a family member under the Family and Medical Leave Act, national origin, gender – including pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment, sexual orientation, and religion. 

We can help with all types of workplace discrimination cases, including: 

  • Acts that occur before employment begins, like discriminatory hiring practices
  • Acts that occur during employment, such as discrimination in compensation, promotions, or other terms and conditions of employment
  • Acts that result from the taking of protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Acts that result in employment ending, such as wrongful termination
  • Any retaliatory actions employees face from their employers following a complaint about discrimination and harassment at work

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An employee of Boeing at their plant in North Charleston who found a noose hanging above his desk earlier this year says the company knew about “an atmosphere of racial hostility and harassment towards African Americans,” according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

The man says he worked at the South Carolina plant for eight years and complained several times about racism in the unit where he had been assigned since 2017, the lawsuit says.

The man, who is black, says white coworkers urinated on his desk and in his seat “numerous times” and used a racial slur daily, according to the court filing. When he complained about the harassment and racism, the man says he was moved to a different unit that did not have air conditioning.

The racism at the plant gained international notoriety earlier this year after the man found a noose hanging above his desk, according to the lawsuit.

Boeing released a statement saying that most of the man’s “allegations were never brought to the attention of management, giving the company no opportunity to investigate these claims. The single issue he did raise was dealt with promptly and in a fair manner.”

Boeing says it fired the employee who hung the noose in the sprawling factory where the company assembles the 787 Dreamliner.

The man had to take medical leave twice because of the effects of the racist environment in the plant, the lawsuit says.

In a statement, Boeing said there are no “no validity to his allegations.”

While the man remains a Boeing employee, he is currently out on family medical leave, according to the suit.

Federal, state and local laws strictly prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee based on race. These laws protect employees from being treated less favorably than other employees, receiving fewer job or promotional opportunities, termination and more, strictly based on race.

Different Types Of Race Discrimination

There are two types of cases when it comes to race discrimination. The first type is disparate treatment/ hostile work environment cases, and the second type is disparate impact cases. Disparate treatment cases involve an employee who is intentionally discriminated against due to their race. Disparate impact cases involve an employee who is discriminated against by employment policies that negatively affect them because of their race.

Race discrimination can take a variety of forms. The following are just a few examples of how race discrimination in the workplace can occur:

  • An employee is treated differently than other employees based on their race, including harsher disciplinary actions
  • An employee is denied promotions, training, or other employment benefits due to their race
  • An employee has suffered retaliation for taking action against a discriminatory employer
  • An employee has suffered wrongful termination motivated by racial discrimination

Racial Harassment at Work

Hiring practices, intentional discrimination, and unfair practices are not the only ways employers can discriminate. Harassment is also a huge issue with regards to racial discrimination. A hostile work environment based upon race can also be terms for a case against your employer.

Race harassment can involve inappropriate humor, intimidation and even physical violence. Oftentimes, incidents start out small and escalate when not addressed thoroughly and aggressively enough. Challenging racial harassment at your workplace can be tough, but an assertive stance must be taken by your employer to make sure this type of behavior is noy tolerated.

Any co-worker can be a source of race harassment, from upper management to lower-level employees. While management may not be participating in the harassment,  if they are aware that it is occurring and do nothing to stop it, they can be liable for the harassment. Employers are obligated to protect their employees from race harassment, so failing to do so can make them just as guilty as the person(s) carrying out the harassment.

The Next Steps

If you do have a race discrimination or harrassment case,, the next step involves submitting a claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This step is necessary, but can be overwhelming. Our Florida Workplace Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help with the submission and much  more.

Our discrimination and harassment lawyers know the impact that race harassment/discrimination can have on your self worth as en employee, which can negatively impact your work performance. We have the resources needed to help you protect your rights and remedy your current situation.

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A Panama City Beach resort and restaurant group has been ordered to pay $60,000 in back wages and fines after federal investigators determined that they cheated their employees.

After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), By The Sea Resorts Inc. – based in Panama City Beach, Florida – will pay $38,513 in back wages to 78 guest workers for violating overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and labor provisions of the H-2B visa program.

In total, $7,304 in back wages were found as a result of FLSA violations, while $31,209 in back wages were found for H-2B violations. By The Sea Resorts Inc. also paid a civil penalty of $12,695.

McDonald’s has been hit with another round of lawsuits from current and former employees who claim management brushed off or ignored their experiences of sexual misconduct at work.

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, the Fight For $15 movement to raise minimum wages and the American Civil Liberties Union announced the charges Tuesday, shedding light on 23 new complaints against the fast food chain and two lawsuits stemming from previous allegations.

McDonald’s cooks and cashiers at both corporate and franchise locations say they reported instances of sexual harassment and assault to their supervisors, but were either ignored or mocked, according to the lawsuits.

A McDonald’s worker from Louisiana whose co-worker allegedly attempted to rape her in a bathroom stall, said “nothing has changed” since her colleagues first began speaking out about sexual harassment at McDonald’s three years ago.

The advocacy groups, joined by “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, are expected to hold a press conference outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago later Tuesday to support the workers and raise awareness of their fight.

In a letter addressed to Lakshmi on Sunday, McDonald’s stated it’s “committed to ensuring a harassment and bias-free workplace” and outlined recent efforts the company has taken to “create safe and respectful” workplaces, including a bolstered sexual harassment policy and a hotline for reporting complaints.

“In the next two months, McDonald’s and [the nonprofit Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network] will facilitate additional conversations with U.S. restaurant employees and other relevant external stakeholder groups to help inform and further strengthen our policy and trainings,” the company wrote in its letter to Lakshmi. “These conversations underscore our commitment to continuous improvement and being responsive to the changing needs of our business and employees — now and in the future.”

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s told HuffPost that the company did not plan to address the allegations publicly outside of its letter to Lakshmi. She noted that roughly 95 percent of U.S. McDonald’s locations are independently-owned franchises and do not fall under the corporate umbrella.

Of the 23 new complaints announced Tuesday, 20 of the charges were sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the three others were filed as civil rights lawsuits, according to a spokeswoman for Fight For $15.

Some of the workers say they were as young as 16 or 17 years old when they were subjected to sexual misconduct at McDonald’s and that their complaints resulted in their hours being cut or termination, according to the lawsuits.

Dozens of sexual harassment charges have been filed against McDonald’s since 2016.

According to a recent EEOC report, nearly 40% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. If you’re being sexually harassed at work, there is no need to suffer in silence. Our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help you understand the laws set in place that protect your rights. Federal, state and local laws protect all employees from unwelcome sexual advances, threats, demands and propositions.

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has formally denied allegations of gender discrimination made by players of the U.S. women’s national team.

28 members of the current women’s player pool filed the lawsuit March 8 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination” that includes unequal pay with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The USSF claims every decision made “with respect to the conduct alleged in the complaint was for legitimate business reasons and not for any discriminatory or other unlawful purpose.”

The federation has maintained the differences in pay are the result of different collective bargaining agreements that establish distinct pay structures for the two teams. Those agreements are not public.

U.S. Soccer also maintained in the response that any alleged differences in pay between the men’s and women’s national teams were not based on gender, but “differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”

The USSF and the women’s team agreed in April 2017 to a collective bargaining agreement through 2021 that gave the players higher pay and better benefits.

The federation claims the allegations do not rise to the level required for punitive damages because there is no evidence of malicious, reckless or fraudulent intent to deny the players their rights.

The lawsuit brought by current national team players is an escalation of a long-simmering dispute over pay and treatment. Five players filed a complaint in 2016 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The lawsuit effectively ended that EEOC complaint.

It will be interesting to see how this case plays out, as it’s illegal for an employer to pay women a different amount than their male co-workers if they are working the same job and have the same level of experience and skill. As this case shows, there are two main federal laws that make it illegal to pay women less simply based on their gender. Title VII prohibits any workplace discrimination based on sex, race, or religion. The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for an employer to pay women a different amount for substantially similar work.

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A roofing contracting company based in Thonotosassa, Florida has paid $265,001 in back wages to 67 employees after a U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation found the employer violated overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The employer also paid $17,753 in civil money penalties for repeat violations.

WHD investigators found the roofing contracting company paid employees a piece rate without regard to the number of hours they actually worked. This practice resulted in violations when employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, but the employer failed to pay them overtime in addition to their piece rates.

WHD also cited recordkeeping violations when the employer failed to maintain daily and weekly records of the number of hours employees worked.

If your employer is denying your overtime pay or if you work more than 40 hours in a workweek and do not see overtime on your paycheck, our Florida Unpaid Overtime Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you recover every penny you have worked for and deserve.

When you work more than 40 hours in a workweek, federal law mandates that you should be compensated at the rate of one and half times your hourly wage. Employees cannot be required to work more than 40 hours in a single week without additional compensation.

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Four women have joined the class action lawsuit alleging discrimination against pregnant and breastfeeding AC Transit employees.

The transportation agency allegedly discriminates and fails to accommodate pregnant women who work for them.

On of the women says she was offered a room where she was told she pump breast milk when she returned to work after her first pregnancy in 2016 – it was an old closet she describes as dirty and that had no privacy.

The woman left her job as a bus driver and now gets paid less as an AC Transit clerk, all so that she can pump.

Another woman says the company makes it difficult for expecting mothers. She joined the suit after she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed her bus while pregnant. She says she asked for lighter desk work prior to the accident but was not accommodated.

So far, four women in total allege that AC Transit refused to accommodate their pregnancy or lactation needs and that they are in violation of their legal rights.

AC Transit released a statement saying that they work with new mothers and value the importance of women in the workforce, and that “it is important to note, modifications of duties can present logistical challenges given the nature of public transit. However, ac transit adopts an individual process that takes into account accommodation options for each new mom and her newborn throughout the first year of life.”

Juggling a family and work is no easy feat, especially for new moms. Seeking a balance between earning money and parental responsibilities can be quite difficult. There are laws in place that protect pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace. Workplace discrimination based on pregnancy and nursing is illegal, and our Florida Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can make sure that you know what your rights are and that they remain protected.

When your employer prevents you from pumping breast milk during work hours, it may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under FLSA, employers must provide breastfeeding mothers reasonable break time and a private space (other than a bathroom) to pump at work for one year following their child’s birth.

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