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Devoted To Employment Law & Litigation
The Employee's Voice And Advocate

CENTRAL FLORIDA EMPLOYMENT LAW ATTORNEYS BASED IN OCALA, FLORIDA

Our law firm is dedicated to representing employees in all areas of employment law. Employment laws are enacted to protect employees from unfair and abusive employment practices. When employees are victimized by unfair and abusive employment practices, we are committed to making employers confront the full force of employment laws under which employees have protected legal rights and must be treated lawfully. With the hundreds of employment law cases we have handled, our Ocala based employment law attorneys will develop and implement a legal strategy to vindicate your employee rights.

Power Of Employers To Control Employment Relationship

In Florida and the United States, employers possess a significant amount of power in controlling the compensation, terms, conditions, and privileges of an employee’s employment.  The employment at-will doctrine is the foundation of employers’ power to control the employment relationship. Under the employment at-will doctrine, an employer can terminate an employee for any reason, including a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason.  The decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Meching v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 864 F.2d 1359 (7th Cir. 1988) illustrates the amount of control some courts allow employers to have over the employment relationship.  In Meching, the court stated that “no matter how medieval a firm’s practices, no matter how high-handed its decisional process, no matter how mistaken the firm’s managers,” it does not interfere with the employer’s employment decisions. 

Basis For Employee Rights & Protections

Employment laws are the basis for employee rights and protections in the workplace.  In providing employees with various rights and protections, employment laws limit the power of employers to control the compensation, terms, conditions, and privileges of an employee’s employment.  Employment laws substantially diminish an employer’s power to control the employment relationship because although courts may be reluctant to second-guess an employer’s employment decision, the less sensible or logical an employment decision appears to be, the more likely a court will find that it was made for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason.  As explained by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in In re Lewis, 845 F.2d 624 (6th Cir. 1988), the “more questionable the employer’s reason” for an employment decision, “the easier it will be for” an employee to expose it as having been made for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason.  Likewise, as observed by the Sixth Circuit in Smith v. Chrysler Corp., 155 F.3d 799 (6th Cir. 1998), in evaluating whether an employment decision was made for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason, courts should inquire into “whether the employer made a reasonably informed and considered decision.”  When an employee is able to show that an employment decision was so lacking in merit or so ridden with error that the employer could not have made a reasonably informed and considered decision, the employee has exposed the employer’s reasons for the decision as a pretext for discrimination or retaliation. 

Employment laws are also an exception to the employment at-will doctrine.  Employment laws prohibit employers from terminating an employee for an illegal reason, such as a discriminatory or retaliatory reason.  Employment laws further erode the employment at-will doctrine by substantially limiting an employer’s power to fire an employee for a bad reason, a false reason, or an absurd reason.  As determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133 (2000), the fact that an employer gives a false or dishonest reason for an employee’s termination is evidence that the employer may be hiding a discriminatory or retaliatory reason.  Likewise, as the Seventh Circuit observed in Monroe v. Children’s Home Association of Ill., 128 F.3d 591 (7th Cir. 1997), showing an employee “was sacked for a trivial transgression that an employer usually tolerates” may be used as evidence of a discriminatory or retaliatory motive.  In fact, although an employer does not need “good cause” to fire an employee under the employment at-will doctrine, firing an employee “without good cause,” as the Seventh Circuit explained in Bullard v. Sercon Corp., 846 F.2d 463 (7th Cir. 1988), can be evidence of illegal discrimination or retaliation under employment laws. 

Employee Rights & Protections Have Expanded Over Time

When initially interpreted and applied, courts generally held that employment laws only protected employees against discriminatory or retaliatory employment decisions with economic consequences, such as hiring, compensation, demotion, promotion, suspension, layoff, and termination.  However, courts began to interpret employment laws more broadly and found that employment laws do not simply prohibit discriminatory or retaliatory employment decisions with economic consequences.  In expanding their scope, courts have determined that employment laws also protect employees from discrimination and retaliation that create a hostile or abusive work environment.  For example, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 67 (1986) that federal law’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex also makes sexual harassment that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile or abusive work environment unlawful.  Since Meritor, courts have consistently held that harassment against an employee on the basis of race, national origin, pregnancy, religion, age, or disability that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile or abusive work environment is unlawful.  Courts have further consistently determined that harassment against an employee in retaliation for opposing discrimination in the workplace that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment is unlawful.    

Employee Protection Against Discrimination

For more than 15 years, we have been committed to helping employees who have been victimized by discrimination in the workplace.  Through our extensive experience in litigating employment discrimination claims, we have acquired comprehensive knowledge of federal and Florida laws which prohibit employers from discriminating against employees.  Employment discrimination laws are an exception to the employment at-will doctrine.

* Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which is federal law, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.  Under Title VII, it is unlawful for employers to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s race, color, national origin, sex, or religion.

* The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which is federal law, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy.  Under the PDA, it is unlawful for employers to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s pregnancy.

* The Age Discrimination In Employment Act (ADEA), which is federal law, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of age.  Under the ADEA, it is unlawful for employers to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s age.

* The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which is federal law, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability.  Under the ADA, it is unlawful for employers to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s disability.

* The Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), which is Florida law, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, and marital status.  Because the FCRA is modeled after Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA, the FCRA is interpreted in the same manner as the federal laws.   

Employee Protection Against Sexual Harassment

For more than 15 years, we have been helping employees who have endured the economic and psychological ordeal of being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.  Title VII and the FCRA prohibit sexual harassment that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile or abusive work environment.  As the Supreme Court explained in Meritor, employees are not required to “run a gauntlet of sexual abuse in return for the privilege of being allowed to work and make a living.”        

Employee Protection Against Hostile Work Environment Harassment

For more than 15 years, we have battled employers who have unconscionably allowed their employees to be subjected to hostile work environment harassment in the workplace.  Just as employment discrimination law prohibits sexual harassment, harassment of employee on the basis of race, national origin, pregnancy, religion, age, or disability that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile or abusive working environment is also unlawful.  As the U.S. Supreme Court in Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 24 (1993) found, “the very fact that discriminatory conduct was so severe or pervasive that it created a work environment abusive to employees” because of their race, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, or disability offends federal law’s mandate of “workplace equality.”   

Employee Protection Against Retaliation

In representing employees in all types of employment law cases, we have learned that enforcement of employment discrimination laws depends on the willingness of employees to oppose discrimination and harassment in the workplace without fear of retaliation.  Title VII, the PDA, the ADA, the ADEA, and the FCRA all contain anti-retaliation provisions which prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for opposing discrimination or harassment in the workplace.  As the U.S. Supreme Court observed in Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337 (1997), the primary purpose of the anti-retaliation provisions is to ensure employees have “unfettered access” to use of the “remedial mechanisms” of employment discrimination laws.

Employee Protection For Blowing The Whistle

Among the employees who are perhaps most vulnerable to retaliation are those who “blow the whistle” on an employer who violates the law or who refuse to participate in an employer’s violation of the law.  Federal and Florida law protect employees who engage in whistleblower activity by reporting, objecting to, or refusing to participate in an unlawful act by employers.  As explained by the Florida Second District Court of Appeal in Schultz v. Tampa Elec. Co., 704 So2d 605 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997), whistleblower laws are “an exception to the at-will employment doctrine.”   

Employee Protection Against Workers’ Compensation Retaliation

Tragically, employees who suffer an injury at work and make a workers’ compensation claim sometimes become targets for retaliation by employers.  Under Florida law, employers are prohibited from discharging, threatening to discharge, coercing, or intimidating employees in retaliation for making or attempting to make a workers’ compensation claim.  Thus, in order to protect vulnerable employees who seek workers’ compensation benefits, Florida law punishes employers who retaliate against employees for making or attempt to make workers’ compensation claims. 

Employee Protection Under Family Medical Leave Act

Having long observed first-hand the unfair employment practices of employers, the termination of employees for missing work because of a serious health condition is one of the more prevalent abuses of employee rights.  The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is federal law, entitles eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period because of the birth of a child or because of their own serious health condition.  As observed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Satterfield v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 135 F.3d 874 (5th Cir. 1998), the FMLA “was enacted because Congress found inadequate job security for employees who have serious health conditions that prevent them from working for temporary periods.”  The FMLA also prohibits employers from interfering with an employee’s FMLA rights or retaliating against an employee for asserting FMLA rights.    

Employment Law Blog

We offer more information about all areas of employment law in our employment law blog.

Contact Us Today For A Free Initial Consultation

In employment law cases, attorney involvement in the early stages is important. Preparing cases while they are still in their early stages enables us to better limit the employer’s ability to take actions intended to prepare a defense rather than protect employee rights. Preparing cases while they are still in their early stages also enables us to better predict the employer’s maneuvers and formulate strategies to overcome them. Our Central Florida employment law attorneys encourage you to contact us as soon as you believe that you might have an employment issue requiring legal assistance. Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we want to be the law firm that advocates on your behalf and gives you the edge in vindicating your employee rights.

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