Yes. You can sue or file a claim of wrongful termination against an employer if you have reasons to believe the termination was based on one or more protected characteristics such as age, race, sex, national origin, disability, gender, pregnancy, color, sexual orientation, and identity or for complaints about harassment or discrimination.
You will be expected to prove that there was no other reason for which the employer fired you. If you can do this, then you may be able to file a claim for wrongful termination. However, always remember that proving wrongful termination can be quite tasking in Florida.
Under Florida law, in the absence of civil service regulations for public employees, a union collective bargaining agreement, or an employment contract that stipulates certain rights and protections, an employee’s status is considered to be “at will.”
This simply entails that the employee works at the will of the employer, and the employer decides the terms and conditions of that employment and can make alterations to those terms and conditions at any time, with or without notice, and for any reason.
For the at-will employee, there is no claim under Florida law for “wrongful termination” mainly because the employer can choose to fire the employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. Note that the employer’s reason for termination, if that is provided at all, maybe unfair, unreasonable, immoral, or poor judgment, based on a mistaken belief or a bad business decision.
But you have to understand that this is the general rule in Florida and most of the United States. If you are considering filing a lawsuit against your employer to receive compensation, take time to ensure that your case is solid and that there’s no other possible reason for your firing to have been justified.
Most often, wrongful termination is assumed when the employer had a completely legal and justified reason for firing someone. If you are not certain of your case’s strength or whether you have a case at all, then it is recommended you reach out to an employment law attorney.
Note that before bringing a wrongful discrimination lawsuit against an employer in Florida, you will first have to file a complaint with the appropriate government agency. In Florida, this would be the Florida Commission on Human Relations, known to enforce state laws against wrongful termination.
How to Sue for Wrongful Termination in Florida
If for any reason you believe you were wrongfully fired by your employer in Florida, here are steps to take and how to sue for wrongful termination.
Table of Contents
First Talk to HR
Just as was noted above, Florida is an “at-will” state, and this means that your employer may not necessarily consult HR before firing you. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if HR was not duly informed or carried along in the discussions leading up to your termination.
Howbeit, first make sure to verify from your employer why you were terminated and take notes if they won’t agree to allow you to record the conversation.
Aside from that, request 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. Ensure 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 whole story. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) will start there with an inquiry when you file a charge of wrongful termination but by then the company has had a chance to make alterations to the story.
This is one of the most important steps to consider if you intend to sue an employer for wrongfully terminating your job in the state of Florida. This will help you determine the circumstances and facts of your firing. Wrongful termination will most often happen when someone protected by state or federal law is fired by their employer. Documents and related materials you should consider finding and 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.
In addition to these documents, depending on the circumstances surrounding your firing, you may need to gather other necessary information that can serve as documentation. For instance, if you feel that you were terminated due to discrimination or harassment, details of what actions were taken and what words were said will have to be properly documented,
File a Report With The Florida Commission on Human Relations or the EEOC
If you have any reason to believe that you are a victim of discrimination or the employer has violated any of the laws enforced by the EEOC (or the state equivalent agency – Florida Commission on Human Relations), then it is imperative that you first report to these agencies.
Once they receive your charge, they will reach out to your former employer and inform them 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
Although working with an attorney in the initial stages of a wrongful termination case is optional, it is a good step to take. While you can easily file with the EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations on your own, note that your employer will have attorneys and sometimes the process is very complicating to understand.
The Florida Commission on Human Relations and the EEOC are known to have limited resources and while they carry out an investigation of your charges, note that they are not your advocate and will not be in a position to defend you during the investigation itself.
There are many sides to the state of Florida employment law; therefore, it is always advised that you work with a skilled employment attorney from the outset. You can always find attorneys that offer a free initial consultation.
Pursue the Right to Sue
If the Florida Commission on Human Relations or the EEOC investigation fails to produce valid results, or if it chooses not to pursue an investigation, you will be issued a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue letter. If 180 days pass with no determination by the EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, have it in mind that you reserve the right to file a lawsuit even with the Right to Sue letter.
You don’t have to wait for the extended time it may take for the Florida Commission on Human Relations or the EEOC to reach 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. Also, note that there are times when the Florida Commission on Human Relations or EEOC may decide to file a lawsuit against the employer.
In such a situation, 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 as was the case when it sued Walmart on behalf of a mentally disabled man.
You can sue your employer for wrongful termination under Florida law and under a few conditions. Howbeit, it is imperative you consult a well-experienced attorney as soon as you believe that your termination was wrongful. A Florida employment attorney will help evaluate your claims and see whether or not you have a case against your attorney. Also, note that they will help you get the compensation you deserve for any severance and unemployment benefits.