What Is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination happens when an employment relationship is ended by an employer in violation of the employee’s legal rights. In Florida, wrongful termination claims can occur when your employers fires you for an unlawful reason or in violation of an employment contract.
The At-Will Employment Myth
But what if you are an “at-will” employee? Most employees in Florida are at-will and employers and employees alike believe that they can fire an at-will employee at any time for any reason. This is absolutely false. An employer cannot fire you for an unlawful reason.
For example, although Florida is an at-will employment state, even at-will employees can’t be fired for discriminatory reasons, in retaliation for reporting harassment, discrimination, reporting or refusing to participate in your employers unlawful conduct, because they exercised a legal right, or other wrongdoing. If this has happened to you, then you should contact a Florida employment lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.
Call (800) 563-1409 today to schedule a free consultation. Pay no upfront costs and fees and pay nothing unless you receive compensation.
According to Florida and federal anti-discrimination laws, it is unlawful for an employer to harass or discharge an employee because that employee engaged in a protected activity. These “protected activities” include complaining about or opposing harassment or discrimination founded in race, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, age, sex, or religion.
Furthermore, An employer may not terminate an employee who complains about discrimination or harassment if the employee had a reasonable belief that the behavior he or she was complaining about was against the law. Without hiring a wrongful dismissal attorney it is almost impossible to hold an employer accountable for the unlawful firing.
How Do I Prove Discrimination
When employers engage in discriminatory practices, your former employer will rarely admit it. Instead, they usually fire you for a fake reason, like “poor performance” or “tardiness.” Additionally, you might notice an increase in formal discipline even though you’ve previously had an exemplary employment history. These fake reasons are called pretext.
You Deserve Compensation If You Were Fired for Unlawful Reasons
If you were recently fired from your job for any unlawful purpose, you may be entitled to monetary damages for lost wages and emotional distress because you were wrongfully terminated. For example, wrongful termination in Florida could involve incidents involving:
Discrimination. It’s illegal to fire an employee because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, genetic information, or age (if the employee is at least 40 years old); state and local laws often protect additional characteristics, such as marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Retaliation. An employer may not fire an employee because the employee complained of illegal behavior, such as harassment, discrimination, workplace safety concerns, wage and hour violations, and so on.
There are many more reasons that qualify as wrongful dismissal. If you would like to know whether your boss has wrongfully fired you, contact Florida Wrongful Termination Lawyer Patrick K. Elliott today for a free consultation at (800) 563-1409.
- Gender Discrimination, Pregnancy Discrimination, Sexual Harassment: Pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, and other forms of gender discrimination are clear violations of Florida and federal law;
- Religion: Discrimination on the basis of religion is unlawful;
- Race, Color, National Origin, or Ethnic Origin: Terminating an employee because he is black, brown, asian, or some other qualifying characteristic is against public policy.
- Disability Discrimination: It is unlawful under both Florida and federal law to terminate and an employee because they have a physical or mental disability.
- Family or Medical Leave Discrimination: Firing an employee because they took lawfully-protected leave.
- Equal Pay:Firing a female or gay worker because they asserted a right to equal pay violates public policy.
- Discussing Wages with Coworkers: Firing an employee for discussing his or her wages with coworkers violates public policy and may be the basis of wrongful termination.
- Political activity: Discharging an employee because of his political activity, particularly political speech, is a violation of fundamental public policy.
- Unsafe workplace: Firing an employee for protesting unsafe working conditions violates public policy.
- Whistle-blowing: Terminating employees for disclosing an employer’s violation of state or federal regulations to a governmental agency violates public policy and may be the basis of a wrongful termination lawsuit. Firing an employee for reporting statutory violations by employer also violates public policy.
- Testifying at a Hearing: Discharge based on an employee’s taking time off (after reasonable notice to the employer) to appear in court as a witness violates public policy.
- Breach of Contract: If an employee has a contract agreeing that the employee may be fired only for certain reasons (such as committing financial malfeasance or gross misconduct), the employer may fire the employee only for those reasons. Otherwise, the employee may have a claim for breach of employment contract.
If you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated, then it’s imperative an employment lawyer as the law limits the time you can file for recovery. The Law Office of Patrick K. Elliott represents employees across Florida. Mr. Elliott will review the facts of your case and assess whether you have any potential legal claims. Call (800) 563-1409 today for a free, no risk consultation.
Free Consultations and No Upfront Fees – Pay Only If You Recover Compensation for Your Employment Case
There is no charge for a free, confidential case evaluation with employment attorney Patrick Elliott. All cases, with slight exception, are taken on a contingency fee basis. This means that, you pay nothing unless we recover compensation for you in your wrongful termination claim.
Additionally, I can try to negotiate a severance package, demand a settlement, or file administrative charges and/or a lawsuit against the employer. On the other hand, you may decide it makes more sense just to move on. But the only way to know for sure how strong your claims are and what options you have is to talk to a lawyer.
Here are some situations that should prompt you to consider getting legal help:
- Statements or actions suggest that you were fired for discriminatory reasons.
- You recently revealed that you have a protected characteristic (for example, that you have a disability or are pregnant).
- You recently filed a complaint of discrimination or harassment.
- You recently complained of other workplace wrongdoing, such as workplace hazards or shoddy accounting practices.
- You recently exercised a legal right, such as voting or taking Family and Medical Leave.
- Your firing changed the demographics of your workplace (for example, because you are the only woman in your department or the only manager who isn’t white).
- You are just shy of vesting or receiving certain benefits, such as vesting stock options or collecting retirement money.
- You have an employment contract limiting the employer’s right to fire you.
If any of these situations have happened to you, then you may have been wrongfully terminated and could be entitled to monetary damages for lost wages and emotional distress . Florida wrongful termination lawyer Patrick Elliott can help you sift the facts, sort out your claims, and decide how to proceed.
Although Florida is an at-will employment state, even at-will employees can’t be fired for discriminatory reasons, in retaliation for reporting harassment, discrimination, reporting or refusing to participate in your employers unlawful conduct, because they exercised a legal right, or other wrongdoing. If this has happened to you, then you should contact a Florida employment lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.
Florida law provides comprehensive workplace protections for employees, some of which govern how, when, and under what circumstances an employee may legally be terminated.
Protect Your Rights
If something doesn’t seem right at work, tell Wrongful Termination Lawyer Patrick K. Elliott about it. All consultations are free and confidential for potential clients.
Florida Employers Cannot Fire You For an Unlawful Reason
Most employees in Florida are considered to be “at-will” employees. At-will employment means that the employee is free to leave their jobs at any time and employers are likewise free to fire the employee at any time for any lawful reason – or even no reason at all.
Employment in Florida is presumed to be at-will, unless there is a specific contractual relationship between the employer and employee that limits the employer’s ability to fire the employee. Under normal circumstances, both the employee and the employer have a right to end the employment relationship, unless doing so would be unlawful.
While employers don’t need a good reason to terminate an at-will employee, they are prohibited from terminating employees for unlawful reasons. Examples of unlawful reasons include:
- Firing an employee because the employee reported a violation of the law, rule or regulation;
- Firing an employee because of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or other protected characteristic;
- Firing an employee because the employee requested time off that they are legally entitled to take;
Put simply: Employers can fire at-will employees for any lawful reason (or no reason at all), but they can’t fire employees if they are motivated by unlawfulreasons.
Wrongful Termination Claims
The most common types of wrongful termination claims are employment discrimination claims. Indeed, both federal law and Florida law prevent discrimination in the workplace. Employees cannot be fired merely due to an employer’s discriminatory hostility towards employees who are members of certain protected classifications. Additionally, employment discrimination laws also protect employees who blow the whistle on their employer’s discriminatory acts.
• Age, if the employee is over the age of 40;
• Race, color, national origin, or ancestry;
• Physical or mental disability;
• Medical condition;
• Genetic information;
• Marital status;
• Sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression;
• Sexual orientation; or
• Military or veteran status.
Your employer cannot terminate you simply because for any of these characteristics apply to you, nor can your employer cannot create a work environment that puts you at a disadvantage simply because you belong to a protected class.
Likewise, your employer may not harass you because you’re a member of a protected class for being part of that class. And the employer may not create or maintain a hostile work environment that leaves the class member with no option than to quit the job.
Of course, not all employees are considered “at-will.” Some employees have contracts that limit their employer’s ability to fire them. In these situations, employees might be able to claim that they were wrongfully terminated merely because their employer lacked a good reason to fire them.
A contract can also limit the employer’s ability to fire the employee if it requires the employer to have a good reason for the termination. For example, the employment contracts of company executives commonly have provisions that limit the circumstances under which they can be fired.
As mentioned above, employers are usually allowed to fire employees for any lawful reason. But they are prohibited from firing employees if they are motivated by an unlawful reason.
One of the most common grounds for a wrongful termination claim arises when the employer has a discriminatory intent in firing the employee. In Florida, there are a variety of laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace.
Florida Discrimination Claims Generally
Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when employers treat individuals differently because of their race or color. Florida and federal law prohibit race discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, incidents of race discrimination can take many forms.
For example, racial discrimination happens when an employer:
- Intentionally targets a member of a racial group;
- Enacts a seemingly neutral job policy that tends to exclude certain persons for a reason that is not job-related.
- Additionally, your employer is prohibited from engaging in discrimination based upon stereotypes, assumptions about abilities or traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups;
- You’re subject to different terms and conditions of employment.
All persons, regardless of their immigration status, are protected by Florida’s employment laws. That does not mean, however, that immigration-based discrimination is unlawful. It merely means that non-citizens are protected against discrimination to the same extent as United States citizens.
The employer’s ability to investigate their employees’ legal status is limited, however. They may not request more or different documents than are required by the federal government. Nor may they refuse to honor immigration-related documents that reasonably appear to be genuine.
And, if the employee is present in the United States legally, and the employer nevertheless discriminates against them on the basis of their status as an immigrant, the employer may have engaged in national origin discrimination.
Additionally, employers are prohibited from reporting or threatening to report their employees’ citizenship or immigration status in retaliation for the employee’s exercise of an employment-related right.
A language restriction is considered a business necessity when it is needed to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the business. The language restriction must also effectively fulfill the business purpose it is supposed to serve.
Employers May Not Engage in Unlawful Retaliation
All Florida employers have legal obligations they must follow. When they violate the law in some way, employees may wish to complain about or report the employer’s wrongdoing. In many cases employees are protected from being punished or fired if they do so.
Reporting Unlawful Activities
In Florida, if an employee reasonably believes that the employer has violated a law or regulation, the employee has a right to report that violation to the government. The employee also has a right to report that violation to an employee that supervises them.
Employers are prohibited from punishing or firing employees for disclosing information about a legal violation to the government, a law enforcement agency, or their supervisor.
Along these same lines, an employer cannot prohibit employees from working with or testifying before any government agency that may be investigating or prosecuting the employer for legal violations.
Finally, employers cannot fire or punish employees for refusing to participate in unlawful activities.
An employer who discharges an employee for reporting unlawful activities commits wrongful termination.
Discrimination and Harassment Complaints
Employers are prohibited from firing or punishing employees who complain about, report, or otherwise oppose unlawful discrimination or harassment.
An employer who fires an employee for opposing unlawful discrimination or harassment has committed wrongful termination.
Complaining About Unpaid Wages
Florida law prohibits employers from terminating, discharging, or in any manner retaliating against employees who file a wage and hour complaint with the Labor Commissioner.
Additionally, employees have a right to complain to their employer that they are owed unpaid wages. Even if no claim is filed with the Labor Commissioner, employers are prohibited from terminating, discharging, or in any manner retaliating against employees for complaining about unpaid wages.
Employees have a right to discuss the amount of their wages with other employees. Employers are prohibited from firing their employees for disclosing the amount of their wages to anyone.
Complaining About Unlawful Work Conditions
Employers are prohibited from firing or punishing employees who complain about workplace safety issues. Employers are also prohibited from firing or punishing employees who reporting an issue of employee safety or health to a government agency. This means that employees cannot be fired for filing an OSHA complaint.
Additionally, employers usually cannot fire or punish an employee who refuses to perform work that would violate any occupational safety or health standard. Furthermore, Florida employees are protected if they have to testify in a court proceeding about dangerous work conditions.
Discussing Work Conditions
Employees have a right to discuss their work conditions – as long as those discussions don’t involve matters that may be trade secrets or legally-protected.
In keeping with this right, employers are prohibited from terminating employees for disclosing information about their working conditions to other people. Again, this rule is limited to information that is not proprietary, secret, or otherwise legally-protected.
This rule is mainly intended to protect employees who complain or discuss potentially unsafe or unlawful working conditions.
Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation
Several types of employees have a right to receive a reasonable accommodation from their employer. A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to the employee’s work environment or job duties that can enable the employee to perform the essential functions of a job in suitable conditions.
Common examples of situations in which a reasonable accommodation may be required include the following:
Employees with disabilities often have a right to work under different conditions than other employees.
They may also have a right to time off of work, as an accommodation for their disability.
Religious employees may have a right to an accommodation of their religious practices and observances.
Employees who have difficulty reading may have a right to a reasonable accommodation.
Employers generally cannot retaliate against employees in these situations for requesting an accommodation. This means that an employer will usually commit wrongful termination if they discharge an employee for requesting or requiring a reasonable accommodation.