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Wrongful Termination Law in Florida

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;

•           Religion;

•           Physical or mental disability;

•           Pregnancy;

•           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


Race Discrimination


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.

Immigration-Based Discrimination


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.

Discussing Income


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.

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim


In Florida, workers’ compensation benefits are designed to provide financial compensation and medical care to employees who suffer an on-the-job injury.

Under Florida law, it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee because they filed, or attempted to file, a valid claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Section 440.205 of the Florida Statutes state:

440.205 Coercion of employees. – No employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.

The broad nature of that policy favors employees who are fired or treated unfairly as the result of a job-related injury. In general, an employer commits wrongful termination if they fire an employee in retaliation for filing, or attempting to file, a workers’ compensation claim.

Employers May Not Fire Workers for Taking Protected Time Off

There are many situations in which employees have a legal right to take time off from work. When an employer fires an employee for taking that time off, they usually will commit wrongful termination.

Family and Medical Leave

Many employees in Florida have a right to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid family or medical leave per year. When an employee has a right to take family or medical leave, the employer is prohibited from firing them for exercising it.
Family or medical leave can be taken for any of the following reasons:

To bond with a child who was born to, adopted by, or placed for foster care with, the employee;

To care for the employee’s parent, spouse, or child who has a serious health condition; or

Because the employee is suffering from a serious health condition rendering them unable to perform the functions of their job.

The eligibility requirements for family or medical leave depend on the reason why the leave is being taken.

Leave for Serious Health Conditions


If the employee is taking medical leave to care for their own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a parent, their spouse, or their child, the following requirements must be met:

  • The employer must have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite;
  • The employee worked more than 12 months for the employer prior to the date that the period of leave is taken; and
  • In the past 12-month period, the employee worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer.
  • A serious health condition, for these purposes, is a physical or mental condition that involves either of the following:
  • Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; or
  • Continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a healthcare provider.
  • Inpatient care means a stay in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility, as well as any subsequent treatment in connection with that inpatient care.

Child Bonding Leave

If the employee is taking family leave to bond with a new child after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement with the employee, the following requirements must be met:

The employer must have at least 20 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite;

The employee worked more than 12 months for the employer prior to the date that the period of leave is taken; and

In the past 12-month period, the employee worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer.

If all three requirements are met, employers will usually be required to provide up to 12 weeks of family leave to eligible employees.

Maternity Leave

New mothers and fathers have a right to take the family and medical leave discussed above. That leave is usually taken to bond with the new child. But pregnant mothers also have a right to take a different kind of leave: pregnancy disability leave.

Employees that are disabled by their pregnancy, by childbirth, or a related medical condition have a right to take up to four months of leave from work. This leave can be take in addition to the 12-weeks of bonding time described above, but it only continues for as long as the employee is disabled.

To be eligible for pregnancy disability leave, the employee must work for an employer that regularly employs five or more employees.

A woman is disabled by her pregnancy if, in the opinion of her doctor, she is unable to perform any one or more of the essential functions of her job because of her pregnancy. A woman might also be disabled by her pregnancy if she suffers from one or more of the following conditions:

Severe morning sickness,
Prenatal or postnatal care,
The need for bed rest,
Gestational diabetes,
Pregnancy-induced hypertension,
Preeclampsia,
Post-partum depression,
Loss or end of pregnancy, and
Recovery from loss or end of pregnancy.

 

“>The common factor with each of these examples is that the pregnancy-related disability has limited a major life activity.If an employee has a legal right to take pregnancy disability leave and they are fired for taking it, the employee probably has a claim for wrongful termination.
Sick Leave

Lactation Breaks
Employers can commit wrongful termination by firing an employee who has requested or expressed a desire to take a lactation break.

A lactation break is a period of time during the work day for nursing mothers to express breast milk (i.e., a break to pump). Both state and federal laws require Florida employers to provide lactation breaks.

The right to a lactation break does not apply if it would seriously disrupt the operations of the employer. This exception is hard to meet, however, and employers should be cautious before invoking it.

Time Off for Military Leave
Employees who join the military generally have a right to take up to five years of leave while they serve. When they return, they have a right to prompt reemployment with the employer.

An employer may not punish or fire an employee for joining the military or requiring less than five years of time off to serve. Additionally, when the employee returns from leave, the employer may not fire the employee without cause for one year (if the employee’s period of service was more than 180 days).

 


If you've been retaliated against because you had to participate in jury duty in Florida, you can sue for money damages.Time Off for Jury Duty
As part of our civic duty, many Florida employees are  required to participate in jury duty and employees selected for jury duty are often legally-required to attend court proceedings. As such, employers are prohibited from firing or in any manner discriminating against employees who need time off to serve on a jury.


Call Today

Constructive Discharge Cases


Employees generally cannot sue their employer for wrongful termination if they voluntarily resign or quit (although they might have other grounds for a lawsuit). This creates a perverse incentive for employers who want to fire employees: they can avoid wrongful termination lawsuits if they can somehow get the employees to quit first.

To combat this problem, courts in Florida have adopted the doctrine of constructive discharge. Constructive discharge occurs when the employer’s conduct effectively forces an employee to resign.

In a constructive discharge case, the employee might technically say “I quit,” but the employment relationship is treated as having been ended involuntarily by the employer’s acts, against the employee’s will. Courts will therefore treat the resignation as a firing.

To amount to a constructive discharge, the employer must create a work environment that is so intolerable that any reasonable employee would resign rather than endure such conditions. Put another way, the employer’s actions or the conditions of employment must effectively leave the employee with no reasonable alternative except to quit.

This test is an objective one. Meaning, it is judged from the perspective of a reasonable person—not from the perspective of the individual employee. And the worker must usually prove that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted the intolerable working conditions.

Making a claim of constructive discharge should only be considered by employees after the employment relationship has ended, to determine whether they have any rights they might have previously overlooked.


Contact a Lawyer


The best time to contact a lawyer is before termination happens, when you suspect that you may be wrongfully terminated in the near future. Unfortunately, wrongful termination isn’t always easy to foresee.

The second best time to contact an attorney is immediately after termination if you know or suspect that you have been wrongfully terminated.

Wrongful termination can have far-reaching consequences, and you may be able to recover if your employer has terminated you for unlawful reasons.


If you've been retaliated against because you had to participate in jury duty in Florida, you can sue for money damages.Time Off for Jury Duty
As part of our civic duty, many Florida employees are  required to participate in jury duty and employees selected for jury duty are often legally-required to attend court proceedings. As such, employers are prohibited from firing or in any manner discriminating against employees who need time off to serve on a jury.


Call Today

Constructive Discharge Cases


Employees generally cannot sue their employer for wrongful termination if they voluntarily resign or quit (although they might have other grounds for a lawsuit). This creates a perverse incentive for employers who want to fire employees: they can avoid wrongful termination lawsuits if they can somehow get the employees to quit first.

To combat this problem, courts in Florida have adopted the doctrine of constructive discharge. Constructive discharge occurs when the employer’s conduct effectively forces an employee to resign.

In a constructive discharge case, the employee might technically say “I quit,” but the employment relationship is treated as having been ended involuntarily by the employer’s acts, against the employee’s will. Courts will therefore treat the resignation as a firing.

To amount to a constructive discharge, the employer must create a work environment that is so intolerable that any reasonable employee would resign rather than endure such conditions. Put another way, the employer’s actions or the conditions of employment must effectively leave the employee with no reasonable alternative except to quit.

This test is an objective one. Meaning, it is judged from the perspective of a reasonable person—not from the perspective of the individual employee. And the worker must usually prove that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted the intolerable working conditions.

Making a claim of constructive discharge should only be considered by employees after the employment relationship has ended, to determine whether they have any rights they might have previously overlooked.


Contact a Lawyer


The best time to contact a lawyer is before termination happens, when you suspect that you may be wrongfully terminated in the near future. Unfortunately, wrongful termination isn’t always easy to foresee.

The second best time to contact an attorney is immediately after termination if you know or suspect that you have been wrongfully terminated.

Wrongful termination can have far-reaching consequences, and you may be able to recover if your employer has terminated you for unlawful reasons.

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