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Lakeland Legal Issues Blog

What is a protected class?

Many people who are employed in Florida are aware that there are federal laws in place designed to ensure that they do not experience harassment or discrimination at work. However, not everyone may know exactly what groups or people are protected by these laws and how they work. You should know that essentially every person is offered some type of protection per the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Laws banning discrimination in the workplace identify certain protected classes that at some point do encompass all workers. These classes involve people of a specific national origin, skin color or race. Certainly, the laws were designed to safeguard minorities from discrimination but they can also support non-minorities from the same type of discrimination as that may well occur.

Recognize and resist employer retaliation

After an on-the-job injury in Florida, it is both your right and your responsibility to report the injury and seek compensation for resultant damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, etc. However, multiple workers' compensation claims within your company cost your employer more money in insurance premiums, and we at Kaylor, Kaylor & Leto have seen employers attempt to punish or intimidate employees who have filed compensation claims. In addition to causing you additional stress while trying to recover from your injury, this behavior, known as employer retaliation, is illegal. 

The telltale sign of employer retaliation is a significant change in the way your employer treats you after filing your workers' compensation claim. However, employer retaliation may be so subtle that you do not recognize it right away. Your employer may take retaliatory actions that hurt you financially, such as transferring you to a lower-paying job, cutting your hours or outright firing you. Conversely, your employer may retaliate by assigning you duties that exceed the activity level approved by your doctor or by ordering you back to work too soon to allow you sufficient time to recover. Your employer may also engage in spiteful behavior intended to make your working hours unpleasant, such as subjecting you to harsher criticism and increased scrutiny, spreading rumors about you or evaluating your performance more negatively than before for no other discernible reason. 

Can I get disability benefits for an addiction?

Addiction is something that many people struggle with. Whether the addiction is to drugs or alcohol, it can affect every aspect of your life. Above all, though, it often prevents you from working or finding a job in Florida due to its debilitating effects on your health. Typically, if someone is disabled and unable to work, he or she can apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This may lead you to wonder if you can get benefits due to an addiction.

The short answer, according to the Social Security Administration, is that you cannot get benefits solely due to an addiction. SSA looks to see if your addiction is the cause of your disability. If it finds your addiction is the main reason you are disabled and that if you would end your substance use, you would no longer be disabled, then it considers your addiction a contributing factor, which means it is not a qualified disability. You must have a qualifying disability to get disability benefits from the SSA, so if your disability is disqualified, you cannot get benefits.

What you need to know about workplace discrimination

If you are experiencing any type of discrimination at work, you may be wondering whether you should take formal action against such behavior. There are many different types of discrimination, and it is important for you to understand whether the behavior you are experiencing at work falls into an area the law protects.

Oftentimes, employees are not aware of their rights in the workplace or how to properly exercise those rights. The following information will help you better understand what qualifies as discrimination that the law prohibits and the steps you can take if you suspect you are a victim of workplace discrimination.

Getting the facts on being slighted at work

Florida employees have the right to work in an environment without experiencing behavior that feels threatening or offensive. However, it is not always clear where the line is drawn between an outright hostile work environment and the occasional lapse in courtesy, which is basically just a petty slight. Some behavior, though rude and unwelcome, might not be considered a form of workplace harassment. 

Slights can take many different forms as the Merriam-Webster dictionary demonstrates, but generally slights are actions of a neglectful nature. A person may intentionally or unintentionally omit courtesies to a fellow worker that people should ordinarily observe at work. Sometimes a worker is simply thoughtless. In other cases, a worker may consider another employee to be beneath them or harbor some resentment towards that employee, and will deliberately overlook common courtesies.

Traumatic brain injuries: What you should know

Whether you were involved in a slip-and-fall accident or had an object fall on your head while on-the-job, you may have received a traumatic brain injury. These injuries occur when a sudden jolt to the head causes the brain to bounce within the skull, hitting against the hard bone and causing inflammation, bruising and bleeding. If you suffer from a brain injury, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TBIs are involved in 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States, making it one of the most common causes of disability and death.

In some cases, traumatic brain injuries can lead to long-term damage and inhibit your ability to perform at your job or engage in daily activities. Depending on the area of the brain that was injured as well as the severity of the injury, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensory disabilities
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more often

What is the compassionate allowances list?

If you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance, it may be months or even years before you receive a decision regarding your case. In fact, more than one million people across the nation are currently waiting for SSDI approval and funds that will help them live while they are unable to work. In some cases, people die before they are able to get the money needed to pay for medical expenses and to make ends meet. In an attempt to decrease the backlog of applications waiting for SSDI processing, the Social Security Administration created the Compassionate Allowances Program. This program is designed to streamline the SSDI application process for people who suffer from certain conditions and diseases that are easily identifiable as being approved for benefits.

The Social Security Administration consistently updates information received from medical experts, the Social Security and Disability Determination Service community, the public and the National Institutes of Health to determine which conditions to place on the Compassionate Allowances list. The list includes certain cancers, such as acute leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, angiosarcoma, brain cancer and gallbladder cancer, as well as conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

What is affirmative action?

People in Lakeland often associate affirmative action with workplace discrimination, and rightfully so. Affirmative action policies are aimed at preventing discrimination based on race, sex or national origin. What is misunderstood about affirmative action is that many believe it to be a law. While in some contexts, it may appear to be, affirmative action is more of an ideology that drives policy. 

The concept of affirmative action was first introduced in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy stated in Executive Order 10925 that contractors (referring specifically to government contractors) were to take "affirmative action" to ensure that employees were to be hired and treated equally without regard to creed or color. From that came the obligation for companies that contract with the federal government (as well as subcontractors) to develop hiring practices and company policies to help promote the success of minorities, women, military veterans and disabled persons. According to Section 60-1.4 of the Code of Federal Regulations, these policies are meant to assist in all of the following areas: 

  • Recruitment and hiring
  • Training
  • Compensation
  • Career advancement
  • Layoffs and terminations

Can my workplace affect my lung health?

In Florida, regardless of what industry you work in, you risk exposure to certain conditions or elements that can potentially damage your lungs. Not only does this have painful and harmful short term impacts, but it can affect your life for a long time to come, too.

A number of different lung issues can occur due to occupational hazards. One such problem is called "popcorn lung", which is the result of exposure to certain chemicals found in flavoring, electronic cigarettes, perfumes, and more. Another major issue identified by Mayo Clinic is known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This disease can affect anyone whose lungs are exposed to constant irritants.

What occupational hazards do nurses face?

Earning a living as a Florida nurse is not for the faint of heart. In addition to logging long hours and performing emotionally taxing work, you probably spend long lengths of time on your feet, and you may, too, find that you are working while the rest of the world is asleep. Nurses also face unique occupational hazards that differ from those faced by workers in other industries, which, in many cases, can lead to serious illness and injury.

Per the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Institutes of Health, one major risk you face when you work as a nurse is the risk of exposure to infectious diseases or blood-borne pathogens. Simply working around others who are in poor health presents certain health risks, with some nurses developing tuberculosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome and other conditions when they work around infected patients. Meanwhile, administering shots, drawing blood and suturing wounds can also expose today’s nurses to potentially deadly blood-borne diseases.

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