Yes. You can be fired in the state of Florida for no reason. Florida is an ‘at-will’ employment state. This simply means that employers in the state can fire employees without obligation to show “just cause.”An employer can fire you if, for instance, he or she intends to reduce payroll costs or concur that another employee can do your job better.
Under these rules, employers have the right to fire an employee at any time and without providing any form of advanced notice. “At-will” employment in Florida also means that void of contractual limitations, an employee can leave a job, and the employer won’t take legal action against you for doing so.
In addition, “at-will” employment in Florida gives employers the right to demote you, reduce your hours, change your job duties, or transfer you without cause — as long as the action does not violate employment laws. You may consider a demotion or getting your hours cut at work unfair, but that does not necessarily make it illegal in Florida.
Actions By Employers in Florida That Can Be Considered Wrongful Termination
A good number of companies in Florida hide behind the “at-will” rule to get away with firing an employee. However, note there are a few examples of potential wrongful termination in Florida. If you believe any of the following were the real reason behind your termination, you may have been unlawfully fired. These reasons include:
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Have it in mind that Federal and Florida state laws restrict employers from firing employees based on:
- Gender identity,
- Sexual orientation,
- National origin,
- Disability, or
- Genetic information.
Coupled with these categories, also note Florida law restricts employment discrimination based on marital status or AIDS/HIV.
Federal law also restrains employers from firing employees in retaliation for a wide range of protected activities such as:
- Filing a complaint or complaining to an employer about discrimination or harassment;
- Getting involved in a discrimination or harassment investigation;
- Requesting accommodations for a religious practice or disability;
- Complaining about unfair labor practices;
- Taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA);
- Participating in a union; or
- Reporting hazardous working conditions.
Florida has also instituted additional laws that safeguard employees from retaliatory termination for things like:
- Reporting an employer’s legal violations;
- Getting involved in an investigation into alleged violations;
- Claiming workers’ compensation; or
- Reporting government waste or gross mismanagement (in the case of public employees).
Breach of Contract
In the state of Florida, employees and employers are allowed to make adjustments to their at-will relationship with an employment contract. This may feature provisions that require good cause for termination, a stipulated amount of notice, or other restrictions. Florida employers cannot terminate a worker if doing so would result in a breach of their contract. For instance, a good number of employees sign contracts that prevent them from being fired without ‘cause’. If you signed any of such contracts, you cannot be fired for ‘no reason. Note that if your employer or company violates this agreement, you can sue for wrongful termination on the grounds of breach of contract.
Taking Entitled Family/Medical Leave
Also, note that certain employees in the state of Florida may have the right to take family leave or medical leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees at companies with at least 50 workers may qualify to take unpaid, job-protected leave to deal with a medical issue or cater to a family emergency. If an employee has the legal right to take leave, the company cannot fire that employee simply because they took leave.
However, note that not all employers in Florida are family-friendly, and some retaliate against employees who have taken FMLA leave. Employees can get fired for taking time off to have a baby or care for an immediate family member dealing with a serious medical condition. FMLA safeguards employees in the state from this type of wrongful termination. Once you get fired for exercising your right to FMLA, you must reach out to an experienced wrongful termination attorney.
Steps to Take If You Were Wrongfully Fired in Florida
If you feel you were wrongfully fired by your employer in the state of Florida, here are steps to consider;
Reach Out to HR
This is without doubt one of the first steps to consider. Since Florida is an “at-will” state, your employer may not need to consult with HR before firing you. However, they will likely get involved after the termination if not before since they need to initiate changes in benefits and give notice to you of your rights under COBRA. Owing to that, you shouldn’t be surprised if HR was not informed or included in the discussions leading up to your termination.
In Florida, you need consent from both parties to record a conversation. Also ask to see your personnel file and take pictures, notes, or copy it, if permitted. If not, it can always be subpoenaed if it gets to that. Make sure to let them know of the situation and your belief that you were wrongfully terminated. You may gather some useful information before the company redirects the wagons. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) will begin there with an inquiry when you file a charge of wrongful termination but by then the company has had a chance to rearrange the pieces of the story.
This is another step to consider if you feel you were wrongfully fired by your employer in the state of Florida. This will help you evaluate the circumstances and facts of your firing. Wrongful termination tends to happen when someone protected by state or federal law is fired by their employer. Documentation will more or less add a lot of weight to a wrongful termination case. Documents and related materials you should consider collecting include:
- Employee handbook and employment policies
- Personnel file and job evaluations/reviews
- Employee contract/agreements or union contracts
- Pay stubs and schedules
- Termination notices or written documentation of any verbal conversations regarding your employment status
- Related electronic communication such as emails, texts, or voicemails
Coupled with these documents, depending on the circumstances surrounding your firing, you may have other vital information that can serve as documentation. For instance, if you feel that you were terminated owing to discrimination or harassment, details of what actions were taken and what words were said will have to be properly documented,
File a Charge With The EEOC
If you have any reason to believe that you have been the victim of discrimination or that the employer has violated any of the laws enforced by the EEOC (or the state equivalent agency), then you should consider filing a charge with the EEOC. Note that once they receive your charge, they will reach out to your former employer and let them know of your charges. The EEOC may also request you and your employer to be part of mediation. If mediation fails to proffer good results, or if the charge is not seen as a good fit for mediation, the EEOC will ask for a written answer from your employer. An investigation may follow.
Consult an Attorney
While leveraging the expertise of an attorney is optional in a wrongful termination case, have in mind that it is a good step to take. Although can file with the EEOC on your own, note that your employer will have attorneys and sometimes the process is very complicating to understand.
The EEOC has limited resources and while they carry out an investigation of your charges, don’t forget that they are not your advocate and will not be in a position to stand up for you during the investigation itself. There are many sides to the state of Florida employment law. Owing to that, it is always recommended that you work with a skilled employment attorney.
Pursue the Right to Sue
If the EEOC investigation fails to bear good fruits, or if it chooses not to pursue an investigation, the EEOC will issue a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue letter. If 180 days pass with no determination by the EEOC (or state agency), note that you reserve the right to file a lawsuit even if a Right to Sue letter has not been obtained. You must wait for the extended time it may take for the EEOC to attain its conclusion- this can even take up to a year or more. You can go on with filing a lawsuit in a court of law.
Most often, the EEOC may decide to file a lawsuit against the employer. In such a scenario, you will not be given a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue since the agency will be doing so on your behalf, and (potentially) on the behalf of other employees. The EEOC is known to take very few cases and they are most often high-profile cases or cases involving legal issues where the EEOC intends to make new law or clarify existing law. In other words, there is a high chance that the EEOC will prosecute your case.