Hillsborough Human Rights Ordinance and St. Pete Businesses

Hillsborough Human Rights Ordinance and St. Pete Businesses

Hillsborough Human Rights Ordinance and St. Pete Businesses

Most small business owners in Florida already know just how important it is to stay compliant with federal anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Title VII. Chances are that they’re aware that there are state prohibitions as well. In our case, the law is known as the Florida Civil Rights Act. However, the laws don’t stop at the state level. In recent years, more counties and cities have gone the extra mile to intact human rights ordinances of their own. Here in Saint Petersburg, we’re governed by the Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance (HCHRO).

Who Does it Protect?

The Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance provides protection against discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, nationality, religion, or disability.

What Kind of Conduct Is Considered Discriminatory

An employer commits discriminatory practices when they:

  • Fail or refuse to hire, discharge, or discriminate in any other way regarding compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment
  • Limit, separate, or classify an employee or candidate in a way that would deny, restrict, or negatively impact employment opportunities or employee status
  • Fail or otherwise neglect to reasonably accommodate any known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified candidate or employee with a disability unless doing so would impose undue hardship
  • Deny opportunities to an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability because of an unwillingness to make reasonable accommodations
  • Retaliate or discriminate against a candidate or employee on the grounds that the individual has opposed or spoke out against a discriminatory practice, or because the individual has made an accusation, filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or has participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the Hillsborough Human Rights Ordinance
  • Aid, abet, incite, or coerce another individual to engage in an unlawful discriminatory practice
  • Willfully obstruct or otherwise interfere with the performance of a duty or the exercise of power by the Human Relations Board, one of its staff members, or any of its representatives.
  • Willfully obstruct or otherwise interfere with a person from complying with the Hillsborough Human Rights Ordinance or an order issued pursuant to the ordinance.

Restrictions on Pre-Employment Examinations and Inquiries

It is also considered an unlawful practice under the Hillsborough Human Rights Ordinance to conduct pre-employment medical examinations or inquiries into whether an applicant or employee is disabled or as to the severity or nature of their disability unless it is applied to all prospective employees regardless of disability. Medical information must be collected and maintained on separate forms, stored in separate files, and considered a confidential medical record. An employer can also ask about a candidate’s ability to perform job-related tasks and responsibilities.

Restrictions on Post-Employment Examinations and Inquiries

It is similarly unlawful for an employer to conduct post-employment examinations or inquiries about an individual’s disability status or the nature and severity of their disability unless these procedures can be proven to be related to the job and are consistent with the business’s needs. This does not preclude voluntary medical examinations given by any employee health programs available on location. An employer may still ask about an employee’s ability to perform job-related functions, too.

Does this apply to my business?

Your business will need to comply with the Hillsborough Human Rights Ordinance if it falls into one of two categories. One, if you have at least five employees working 30 or more hours per week. Two, if you have at least 15 employees (or agents of your employees) who have worked 13 or more weeks in the current or previous calendar year regardless of hours worked.

The Claim Process

Your employees are eligible to file claims if they live in unincorporated Hillsborough County, Temple Terrace, or Plant City. There is no cost for filing and any complaint must be made within 180 days of the alleged offense. All complaints are handled by the Equal Opportunity Administrator’s Office (EOA) in Tampa, Florida. If the employer is found to be guilty of discrimination, the employee will be awarded back pay and attorney’s fees. Additionally, employers convicted of HHRO violations are subject to fines up to $500.00 and/or imprisonment up to 60 days.

Do you need help staying compliant with all these local, state, and federal ordinances? Or maybe you’re looking to start a business or grow your current business? Contact FL Patel Law today by visiting our website or calling (727) 279-5037.

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FL Patel Law PLLC is a boutique business law firm dedicated to entrepreneurs and companies.

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