The term wrongful termination means the firing of an employee for an unjust or unlawful reason. Truth be told, wrongful termination in Florida can be quite confusing because Florida is considered an at-will state. It simply entails that a person can leave a job for any reason without notice, and employers can also sack a worker for nearly any reason without giving notice.
Although employers in at-will states like Florida have substantial leverages to terminate the employment of workers, numerous situations constitute wrongful termination. Note that even though employment in Florida is at-will, it does not apply to situations in which there is a written contract between the employer and the employee.
A good number of states in the United States recognize both oral and written contracts especially when it comes to wrongful termination, but that is not the case in Florida. Only written contracts are considered valid and this entails that those seeking damages for wrongful termination based on breach of contract are only eligible if the employer violated a signed contract.
To be wrongfully terminated is to be sacked for an illegal reason involving a violation of state or federal law. If you’ve been wrongfully terminated, you may have legal rights to severance pay, damages, or unemployment compensation.
Howbeit, you need to understand that termination is only wrongful when there is no genuine reason for the sacking. As an employee, you need to prove that there was no genuine reason why the company fired you. If you can, then you may be able to file a claim for wrongful termination.
If as an employee you believe that you were wrongfully terminated, the first step is for you to organize documentation that supports your claim. Some of the documents you will need include emails or other correspondence that document improper behavior, harassment, or discrimination.
Aside from that, other employees could provide documentation that supports the worker’s claim. You may also want to reach out to the human resources department of the company to directly find out why you were fired.
Things Considered Wrongful Termination in Florida
It can be very challenging to discuss unlawful termination in Florida because the claim barely exists in the state. However, there are some notable exceptions, including:
Table of Contents
- Reporting Or Objecting To Discrimination
- Taking Sick Leave
- Being Owed Overtime
- Testifying Against Your Employer
- Breach of Contract
- Being Over 40
- Pay Remaining Wages
- Comply With The Terms Of Employment Contracts
- Provide Proper Notice For Large-Scale Layoffs
- Provide Healthcare Coverage
- Pay Unemployment Benefits
In Florida, it is considered illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy status, religion, disability, age, marital status, and whether someone has AIDS/HIV or sickle cell anemia.
However, note that these restrictions only apply to businesses with more than 15 employees. In cases of discriminatory firings, the employee will have to submit a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations before they proceed with a lawsuit against the company.
Reporting Or Objecting To Discrimination
In the State of Florida, also note that employees cannot lawfully be terminated for reporting or objecting to discrimination, whether against themselves or a coworker.
Florida law does not give room for an employer to fire an employee for reporting illegal activities, policies, or practices by the employer to the authorities. This is referred to as whistleblowing. However, note that for this law to apply, the employee will first have to bring the matter to the attention of the employer in writing.
Have it in mind that both State and federal laws prevent Florida employers from sacking employees for reasons considered retaliatory. For instance, an employee in Florida cannot be fired for filing complaints about not receiving overtime pay or about unsafe, unfair, or unsanitary conditions in the workplace.
Taking Sick Leave
Note that employees that have worked at least 12 months, which can be non-consecutive, and for an employer with 50 or more employees may have a legal claim according to the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Being Owed Overtime
In the state of Florida, an employee cannot be fired for objecting to not being paid. This may include objecting to improper classification of the worker as an exempt employee not entitled to overtime wages.
Testifying Against Your Employer
Also, note that a Florida employee cannot be terminated for their testimony when under subpoena.
An employee can also not be fired for being pregnant. This in recent times includes giving birth when the employer maintains outdated and stereotypical beliefs about women with children.
Breach of Contract
If you have an employment contract stating that you can only be terminated for cause, have it in mind that the employer may have to pay you for the entire length of the contract if they end it early. However, just as was noted above, only written contracts are considered valid and this entails that those seeking damages for wrongful termination based on breach of contract are only eligible if the employer violated a signed contract.
Being Over 40
When it has to do with layoff or redundancy, your employer is expected to provide you with a list of the ages of the others laid off or made redundant. The primary objective here is that you can determine whether or not age discrimination has occurred.
Florida Employment Law After Termination
Florida laws on terminating employees also mandate the employer to do a few crucial things after they have let an employee go. These things include;
Pay Remaining Wages
Although the state doesn’t expressly mandate employers to pay a terminated employee’s outstanding wages immediately; however, you will be expected to pay them what they are owed by the next regular payday after they are fired.
Comply With The Terms Of Employment Contracts
Employees and employers can decide to make alterations to their at-will relationship with an employment contract. Most often, this document will contain provisions that require good cause for termination, a stipulated amount of notice, or other restrictions. If an employee is fired contrary to the terms of the employment agreement, the employer could be sued for breach of contract.
Provide Proper Notice For Large-Scale Layoffs
Employers in the state of Florida are advised to be conversant with the federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. This federal law mandates employers to give 60 days’ notice if they intend to lay off either 50 or more employees at one location or more than 1/3 of their full-time workforce.
Provide Healthcare Coverage
For businesses or employers with 20 or more employees that provide optional group healthcare coverage, they are expected to allow the employee to maintain their coverage for up to 18 months following termination. This rule is stipulated by the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, commonly known as COBRA.
While the employer is expected to allow the employee to continue coverage, they are not mandated to pay for it. Unless they choose to subsidize COBRA as part of a severance package, the employee will have to pay both the employee and employer’s share of the insurance if they intend to remain on the group plan.
Pay Unemployment Benefits
Aside from employees fired for malicious conduct, have it in mind that they are allowed to apply for unemployment benefits after they are terminated. As an employer, these benefits are not immediate expenses since they are paid through reemployment taxes. However, your Florida reemployment tax rate will be affected by the number of benefits paid out to your former employees