Florida Law and Wrongful Terminations
Generally speaking, Florida is regarded as an “at will employment” state, meaning that an employer can fire, hire, demote or promote any employee for any given reason, even if there is no reason at all. There are however some exceptions where this cannot happen.
When your job contract is terminated due to sex, age, race, national origin, religion, color, pregnancy, disability or marital status, it’s considered as wrongful termination. Any employer with 15 or more employees isn’t allowed to make any such of discrimination in the workplace. An employee that has been fired due any of the reasons above is considered wrongful termination and you can take legal action against the employer.
If you’re a victim of discrimination and have reported it to the proper authorities, your employer doesn’t have the legal right to retaliate against you. It’s your duty as an employee to report any form of discrimination and you cannot legally be fired for doing so. Often, such actions can lead to a retaliation lawsuit.
Refusal to Participate in An Illegal Activity
The term “whistleblower” is used to describe an employee who reports illegal employer activity. There are a number of state and federal whistleblower laws in place to protect employees from retaliation for reporting employer misconduct (for example, to a government agency or oversight board) or refusing to engage in illegal workplace activity.
An employer doesn’t have the right to fire you and/or not pay you because you refuse to participate in something illegal. If an employer does this, it is considered as wrongful termination. A number of laws intended to protect the public from dangerous or illegal activity, from environmental dumping to fraudulent accounting practices, also protect employees from retaliation for “blowing the whistle”. Even if no law directly protects you from termination, you may still have a legal claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
Taking Medical Leave
Employees should normally not be terminated because of a medical condition, pregnancy, sickness, or disability. If you have worked as an employee for up to 12 months even if it’s not consecutive and the employer has 50+ employees, it is not legal to be fired because of your medical leave, in most cases, you’re qualified to receive other benefits given to other employees.
Your Employer Owed You Overtime or Minimum Wages
A lot of employers are known to hold overtime dues for employees and when you raise the issue you end up been fired, this is considered illegal. Any dues owed to you must be paid accordingly and the company or employer has no right to terminate your contract in retaliation for these claims. This can often violate the Fair Labor Standards Acts (FLSA). The federal overtime and minimum wage provisions are contained in the FLSA.
Testifying Against Your Employer in Court
An employer cannot legally retaliate against an employee who tells the truth in an investigation or lawsuit; you can’t be terminated because you testify against your company or employer. The protective measures found in legislative enactments are often part of the specific statutory scheme that an employee might rely on to make a complaint about unlawful activity. For instance, the sexual harassment laws contain specific anti-retaliation provisions that can be interpreted to apply to both a complaining employee and supporting witnesses. Seek a qualified attorney about these issues immediately.
Some women suffer from pregnancy discrimination; some employers don’t hire women that are pregnant or state that they intend to become pregnant. Firing or not hiring a woman because she is pregnant is considered discrimination. Additionally, it is discrimination if you lose your job because you gave birth. You have the right to return to your job after giving birth or after maternity leave has been used.
Breach of Contract
If the terms of your job contract have stated the conditions on which you’ll be terminated and you abide by all the rules and your employer fires you before the end of a contract, you normally must be paid in full for the agreed upon length of time with the compensation that would have resulted from not being terminated before the end of the contract.
What Do You Do When Your Rights Are Violated?
When you believe your rights have been violated, talk to your employer first to see if the problem can be resolved. Let your employer know if you are not being treated fairly or if the employer is participating in illegal activities and these activities are not immediately stopped, that you are going to take legal action against him.
If there is still no mutual agreement or resolution of the problem(s), then it’s time to hire a lawyer. At Massey & Duffy, we’re available to offer any assistance to employees that have disputes with their employers.