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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Q. My boss is treating me differently than other employees. I am constantly being yelled at, criticized and harassed. Is there anything you can do?
    A. OEO cannot investigate these claims unless the boss' actions are due to one of our covered categories. There are no laws to protect employees from this kind of treatment unless the boss is only directing this behavior toward one protected class of workers and not others.

  2. Q. I was terminated and my boss is refusing to give me my final pay.
    A. Contact the U. S. Dept. of Labor, Wage and Hour Division at: (561) 640-0474 [West Palm Beach office] or (305) 598-6607 [Miami].

  3. Q. I was terminated and my boss is refusing to pay me for unused vacation time.
    A. Contact the U. S. Dept. of Labor, Wage and Hour Division at: (561) 640-0474 [West Palm Beach office] or (305) 598-6607 [Miami].

  4. Q. I was hired for a position and when I reported to work, I was told that they had changed their mind. Is there anything I can do?
    A. Florida is an "Employment at Will" state. An employee can be hired and fired at any time for any reason. However, if the reason is because of a person's race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age (over 40) or sexual orientation, marital status or familial status, it may be a violation of the Palm Beach County's Equal Employment Ordinance.

  5. Q. Can my employer fire me for missing work even if I have a doctor's excuse?
    A. Depending on the severity of the illness, the employee may qualify for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). If they do not, then no protection exists except for categories covered Palm Beach County's Equal Employment Ordinance.

  6. Q. I was hurt on the job and my employer terminated me.
    A. Contact the Division of Workers Compensation at (561) 837-5717 [West Palm Beach].

  7. Q. I have an employee who is on maternity leave. Do I have to keep her position open?
    A. Yes, if the employee is covered by FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). Also, if you keep positions open for other temporary medical problems, you must do the same for pregnancy. Otherwise it can be considered as treating an employee who is pregnant differently based on her sex.

  8. Q. Do I have to let a pregnant employee work until she has a doctor's release, or can I relieve her of her duties now?
    A. The employee should be allowed to work until her doctor tells her she must quit work.

  9. Q. Can I change a pregnant employee's duties?
    A. Not unless she has a doctor's excuse.

  10. Q. How do I get a copy of my OEO investigative file?
    A. You must make a request that includes name of file and file number. OEO can only release copies of your file after the case is closed. Send your request to:
    Director, Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity
    Government Center
    301 North Olive Avenue, 10th Floor
    West Palm Beach, FL 33401

  11. Q. How long do I have to file an employment discrimination complaint?
    A. A complaint must be filed with OEO within 180 days from the last date of discrimination. If it is an employment situation that happened more than 180 days ago but less than 300, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can investigate your complaint. If it is a housing situation that occurred within one (1) year from the date of the last discrimination, OEO can investigate the complaint. If it is an employment complaint that happened more than 301 days ago but less than 365, the Florida Commission on Human Relations can investigate your complaint.

  12. Q. Do you represent me?
    A. No. OEO is a neutral fact-finding agency during investigations. OEO's job is to investigate each complaint to determine if there is evidence that a violation of the law has occurred. If it is determined that there is probable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, then OEO has an interest in preventing and eliminating discrimination.

  13. Q. I hurt my back. Doesn't my employer have to provide me with an accommodation?
    A. Not unless your condition substantially limits one or more major life activity. These are defined as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, breathing, etc. Working has also been defined as a major life activity. Accommodations for disabilities of employees must also be reasonable to the situation.

  14. Q. I filed a complaint with the EEOC or with HUD. Do I have to file one with OEO too?
    A. No, if you were employed in Palm Beach County or rent or buy property in Palm Beach County, the EEOC or HUD will automatically dual-file the complaint with OEO as part of our Dual-Filing Agreement with these two federal agencies.

  15. Q. What is discrimination?
    A. Discrimination is treating a person, or a group of persons differently than others are treated under the same or similar circumstances, or denying a person or persons the same benefits or privileges provided to others because of that person's race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, disability, familial status (families with children), sexual orientation, marital status and gender identity or expression.

  16. Q. What is familial status discrimination?
    A. It is the practice of treating families with children under the age of 18 differently with regard to the terms and conditions of housing. It is also illegal to advertise "no children" in ads for housing.

  17. Q. Can an employer refuse to hire me because I am pregnant?
    A. No, not as long as you are qualified and capable of performing the essential functions of the job.

  18. Q. What kind of questions shouldn't I ask in an interview?
    A. Any questions about race, ethnic origin, age, or sex are prohibited. If the person has a recognizable disability, an employer can ask if the person will need a specific accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job.

  19. Q. Am I covered if I believe that I was discriminated against because I am gay?
    A. Yes. Palm Beach County's Equal Employment Ordinance and Fair Housing Ordinance both provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

  20. Q. Can my employer talk to me any kind of way?
    A. There is no law against a rude employer unless the employer makes offensive racial or sexual comments or offensive comments about age, disability or other protected categories.

  21. Q. What if I believe my former employer is "black-balling" me when a potential new employer is calling for a reference?
    A. This is not necessarily illegal. However, if the employer is doing this because you filed a discrimination complaint against them, this could be considered retaliation and that is covered under Palm Beach County's Equal Employment Ordinance.

  22. Q. Will the Palm Beach County OEO and EEOC or HUD both investigate my complaint?
    A. No, only one agency investigates and then shares the results with the other agency. Either OEO, HUD or EEOC will determine who will investigate the complaint.

  23. Q. How long does an investigation usually take?
    A. This varies depending upon the complexity of the case and how cooperative the parties are. We usually complete an investigation within six months, although it could be much shorter or longer than this.

  24. Q. What are the remedies to a discrimination complaint?
    A. These vary depending upon the alleged harm that occurred. You can get back-pay in discharge cases, a job in failure to hire cases, the apartment in failure to rent cases and you can also get a monetary remedy for deprivation of civil rights, emotional suffering and humiliation.

  25. Q. What if I want to settle my case rather than proceed to court?
    A. We always encourage the parties to consider settlement. In fact, shortly after the complaint is filed, we will ask the parties to discuss settlement with our compliance investigators. Settlement effectively ends the case.

  26. Q. Who has the burden of proving discrimination?
    A. The complainant must prove they are a member of a protected category, that something bad happened to them and that there is a connection between the bad thing and their protected category. The burden then shifts to the respondent to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for what happened. At that point the burden shifts back to the complainant to show the reason given by the respondent was not the real reason, but a pretext to discriminate.

  27. Q. Am I required to tell my employer about sexual harassment I am experiencing before filing a discrimination complaint with the OEO?
    A. Yes and No. If the sexual harassment is "quid pro quo" sexual harassment, meaning sex has been made a term or condition of your employment by a supervisor, you do not have to tell them first. If the sexual harassment is "hostile environment," you have to tell a person in a position of authority UNLESS you can prove that the employer has a record of not doing anything even if you report it. If you do not report a "hostile environment" complaint, the employer MIGHT be able to get out of liability.

  28. Q. What is the legal definition of sexual harassment?
    A. Sexual harassment is defined as any behavior of a sexual nature that is unwelcome. It includes verbal comments as well as physical touching, as well as "dirty" pictures or lewd jokes. Situations are analyzed on a case-by-case basis.


Contact Us


Government Center
301 North Olive Avenue
10th Floor
West Palm Beach FL, 33401
Tel (561) 355-4884
(561) 355-1517 (TTY)
Fax (561) 355-4932(Fax)

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