Do you work for an elected official of the State of Florida? Have you been discriminated against based on your race, sex, disability, age or other protected characteristic?
You might be surprised to learn that common federal anti-discrimination laws (such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the American with Disabilities Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act) do not apply to your employment relationship. These laws have an exception to protection known as the “personal staff exception.” In other words, if you are employed as: the personal staff of an elected official, or serve as an advisor of the elected official, or serve the elected official in policy-making decisions, you likely may not be protected.
So, does this mean your employer is permitted to discriminate based on legally protected characteristics such as race, sex, age or disability? The answer is NO.
In 1991, Congress enacted the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991 (“GERA”) to ensure that personal employees of elected officials of the State are protected from discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.” GERA claims are filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and must be filed within 180 days of the when the employee knew or should have known of the unlawful discrimination.
After filing a complaint, if the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred, you may be awarded reinstatement, back pay (lost wages and benefits), compensatory damages (emotional damages) as well as your attorneys’ fees and costs.
Not all employees of elected officials fall under GERA—so it is important to consult with an experienced employee rights attorney who can evaluate which anti-discrimination laws apply to you.