Florida – a place with a diverse workforce, a vibrant economy, and a dynamic labor market, is also a state where endless job opportunities often turn into employment disputes involving wrongful termination, wage disputes, harassment, discrimination, and contract breaches.
Resolving employment disputes in court does more harm than good, both to workers and employers. Finding a viable alternative that enables amicable resolution, promotes a healthy work environment, and preserves relationships is vital. That is where mediation comes into play.
In this blog post, we will explore common employment disputes, mention practices employers can use to avoid conflicts and highlight the role of mediation in achieving mutually beneficial solutions. Stay tuned!
The workplace is where personal and professional interests co-exist and often collide. It is a breeding ground for countless conflicts that lead to employment disputes. Here are the most common:
According to the Florida Civil Human Rights Act (1992), discrimination is the unfair practice of treating employees differently due to their membership in a category such as religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, marital status, color, or handicap. Federal legislation bans employment discrimination, too. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) makes sexual discrimination in the workplace illegal. Following anti-discrimination legislation, the U.S. Supreme Court played a pivotal role in defining types of sexual discrimination in the work environment. The court distinguishes between two categories of sexual harassment at work: quid pro quo harassment (seeking sexual favors from an employee in return for promotion) and hostile environment harassment (creating a hostile environment at the workplace through unwanted touching, gestures, and sexually repulsive jokes).
The minimum wage, unpaid wages, deductions, employee misclassification, overtime pay, and other wage-related issues often give rise to employment disputes. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets out federal wage standards. On the state level, Chapter 448, Section 110 of the Florida Statutes deals with minimum wage, annual wage adjustment, and enforcement.
In many instances, employers have the right to terminate the employment. Failing to meet specific workplace requirements or consuming drugs and alcohol at work will inevitably lead to layoffs. However, getting fired for reporting discrimination or misconduct at the workplace falls into the wrongful termination category. Employees who experience such mistreatment can protect their rights in administrative and court proceedings or seek amicable resolution in mediation.
Employment contracts define workplace roles and deal with rules of conduct for employers and employees. Breaching vital provisions, such as non-disclosure, non-compete, or severance clauses, leads to highly contested employment disputes.
In addition to work legislation and employment contracts, most companies have internal policies, procedures, and codes of conduct that deal with workplace dynamics in more detail. Violating those policies is a source of employment conflicts whose outcome depends on the dispute resolution method workers and employers choose.
Some workplace conflicts are inevitable, but employers can avoid many disputes by deploying prevention strategies that promote healthy work culture and cooperation. Here are some of the best practices:
Most employment disputes occur because workers are unsure about their job description, expectations, benefits, and other aspects of the work relationship. Employers can prevent misunderstandings and potential disputes by drafting concise and comprehensive employment contracts, outlining workers’ rights and obligations, and detailing the dispute resolution procedures. Both parties should review the contract provisions before signing (if possible, assisted by legal professionals) to ensure there are no uncertainties and unrealistic expectations on either side.
An educated worker is an empowered worker. Employers should undertake regular training sessions and organize educational workshops to ensure employees understand anti-discrimination laws, reporting procedures, and workplace policies. Workplace awareness prevents potential disputes and, therefore, benefits both employers and employees.
Workplace disagreements are inevitable despite undertaking preventive measures. When a conflict arises, employers must take all necessary legal actions to investigate complaints promptly and thoroughly. All employees (not only involved parties) should be familiar with the results.
As a voluntary and confidential process, mediation involves a neutral third professional who assists parties in finding a common language and reaching mutually agreeable outcomes. Unlike vindictive litigation, which ruins relationships (and budgets), mediation is a flexible and collaborative way out of the most contested employment disputes. Below are its most known advantages:
In contrast to litigation, where parties must reveal sensitive personal details and expose themselves to public scrutiny, mediation allows them to share their most intimate information without fear of public condemnation. That is especially important in sexual harassment cases, where undue publicity ruins work relationships and personal reputations. Mediation sessions are closed to the public so parties can share their concerns in honest communication, increasing the likelihood of dispute resolution.
Resolving employment disputes in an amicable environment helps reduce the strain on relationships between employers and employees. Mediation promotes understanding and mutual respect, enabling the parties to move forward and leave the conflict behind them.
Without hefty court and attorney fees, mediation proves to be the most cost-effective method out there when it comes to employment disputes. The process is flexible (there are no rigid rules and multiple litigation stages), and the mediator’s fees are considerably lower, which results in less expensive dispute resolution.
Instead of waiting for a mandatory, court-imposed decision to resolve their faith, employment dispute parties control both the process and the outcome in mediation. They can craft solutions that meet their unique needs and expectations, paving the path for workable future relationships.
Unlike court processes, which can take months or even years, mediation lasts several weeks, allowing parties to resolve disagreements and return to their regular work routines.
The employment mediation process starts by choosing a mediator. Selecting a qualified professional with experience in employment disputes and expertise in labor laws is vital for reaching positive outcomes.
After selecting the mediator, the parties must agree on a convenient time for mediation sessions (in-person or online). Both parties must prepare for the sessions, familiarizing themselves with the case. That includes gathering all information and necessary documents.
The mediator first holds private sessions (caucuses) in which parties can present their arguments to a mediator who cannot share details with the other party. In joint sessions, the employer, employee, and the mediator gather to negotiate the terms of the potential agreement. If they settle the dispute, the parties must sign the agreement enforceable in court.
Florida courts actively encourage mediation in employment disputes. In some specific cases, it is court-ordered. To promote alternative dispute resolution, the Florida Supreme Court established the Florida Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), which supports mediation efforts throughout the Sunshine State.
Employment disputes can be emotionally and financially exhausting for everyone involved. However, mediation allows employers and employees to discuss disagreements in an amicable environment, working toward a mutually beneficial outcome.
In Florida, where the state encourages mediation as a healthy way out of employment disputes, the Mediation Group leads the way in resolving workplace conflicts and preserving relationships.
We are the Florida Supreme Court-certified mediators, united in one goal – providing you with the best possible employment dispute mediation experience. Our experts excel in all areas of employment law and possess years of valuable experience mediating the most heated workplace conflicts.
Workplace conflicts, no matter how complex, do not mean the demise of your employment relationship. Turn the tide of the dispute and achieve mutually beneficial results with the Mediation Group.