In the dynamic landscape of employment law, misconceptions can be costly for both employers and employees. A common assumption among some small business owners is that having fewer than 15 employees grants them a free pass to treat their workforce as they please, even resorting to discriminatory practices. However, this notion couldn’t be farther from the truth, and the repercussions can be significant.
While the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”) and Title VII do establish a threshold of at least 15 employees before a company can be sued for discrimination, there’s a vital piece of legislation that often slips under the radar: the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981. Initially aimed at safeguarding against discrimination towards African Americans after the abolition of slavery, this act has evolved to encompass a broader scope, now protecting individuals of various ethnicities and religions from discriminatory practices. Unlike Title VII and FCRA, Section 1981 doesn’t impose a minimum employee count, meaning all companies operating within the United States can be held liable under this federal law.
It’s important to note that while Section 1981 does not explicitly address gender discrimination, the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) does offer protection against gender-based pay disparities, even for employees of smaller establishments. Although the EPA may not cover all aspects of gender discrimination, it still exposes employers, regardless of their size, to potential liability if any part of the discrimination involves unequal pay based on gender.
In essence, small business owners should avoid falling into the trap of assuming that their size exempts them from legal obligations. Responsible and ethical conduct in the workplace is paramount, irrespective of the number of employees. It is always recommended for employers to conduct themselves as if they were subject to federal and state laws, acting out of an abundance of caution. Not only does this approach protect businesses from legal repercussions, but it also upholds the principles of fairness and equality.
Should you have any inquiries or concerns about navigating these complex legal matters, feel free to reach out to Tom Thompson at 850-386-577 or simply fill out our Contact Form. Your commitment to understanding and upholding the law is not just a safeguard for your business but a step toward fostering a more just and equitable work environment.