FLORIDA WRONGFUL TERMINATION LAWYERS
Our law firm fights for employees in claims against employers for wrongful termination. If you are terminated, it is important to determine whether the termination violated your protected legal rights. An unfair or unjust termination does necessarily mean that the termination was a wrongful termination. Rather, a wrongful termination occurs when an employer terminates an employee in violation of an employment contract or an employment law. When an employee is terminated under such circumstances, the termination is not only a wrongful termination, it is an unlawful termination. When you are terminated in violation of an employment contact or an employment law, you have the right to take legal action and seek monetary damages. If you have been the victim of a wrongful termination, our Florida wrongful termination attorneys will use the full power of fair employment practice laws to ensure that your employer is held accountable for the economic and psychological ordeal you have endured.
The Employment At-Will Doctrine
In the United States, including Florida, the vast majority of employees are employed on an at-will basis. In the employment at-will context, an employer can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason, including a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason. When they provide employees with an employee handbook, employers will customarily include language in the handbook notifying employees that their employment is at-will and they can be terminated at any time and for any reason. The employment at-will doctrine is the legal principle invoked by employers, whether knowingly or unknowingly, when they tell employees that they do not need a reason to fire them and do not have to give them a reason for firing them. However, there are exceptions to the employment at-will doctrine which narrow its scope and restrict an employer’s right to unilaterally end an employment relationship.
Exception To Employment At-Will: Employment Contracts
One exception to the employment at-will doctrine is employees who have an employment contract or who are protected by a collective bargaining agreement. An employment contract will customarily contain language that the employee can only be fired for cause or good cause. Employees protected by a collective bargaining agreement generally can only be fired for cause or good cause. Employees who are members of a union, such as the United Auto Workers and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, are protected by a collective bargaining agreement. When employees can only be fired for cause or good cause under an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, employers do not have the right to discharge them for any reason. Rather, employers must demonstrate that there is cause or good cause for the termination. In Florida, only a small percentage of employees are protected against the employment at-will doctrine by an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement.
Exception To Employment At-Will: An Illegal Reason
The second exception to the employment at-will doctrine is that employers cannot fire employees for an illegal reason. An employee is terminated for an illegal reason when the termination violates an employment law, including an employment discrimination or retaliation statute. As observed by the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Abel v. Dubberly, 210 F.3d 1334 (11th Cir. 2000), although “an employer may fire an employee for a good reason, a bad reason, a reason based on erroneous facts, or for no reason at all,” an employer cannot fire an employee for a “discriminatory reason” or a retaliatory reason. This means that an unfair or unjust termination is not a wrongful termination unless the termination is for an illegal reason. It is the illegal reason, not simply the unfairness or unjustness of the termination, which makes the termination a wrongful termination.
An Illegal Reason Under Employment Law
There is a broad array of federal and Florida employment discrimination and retaliation laws which make it unlawful for employers to terminate employees for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. These statutes provide employees with a cause of action against employers who terminate them for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. The federal and Florida employment discrimination and retaliation statutes include:
* Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which is federal law, protects employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. Under Title VII, terminating an employee because of his or her race, color, national origin, sex, or religion is an illegal reason.
* The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which is federal law, protects employees from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Under the PDA, terminating an employee because she is pregnant is an illegal reason.
* The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which is federal law, protects employees from discrimination on the basis of disability. Under the ADA, terminating an employee because he or she has a disability is an illegal reason.
* The Age Discrimination In Employment Act (ADEA), which is federal law, protects employees from discrimination on the basis of age. Under the ADEA, terminating an employee because of his or her age is an illegal reason.
* The Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), which is Florida law, protects employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, and marital status. Under the FCRA, terminating an employee because of his or her race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, or marital status is an illegal reason.
* The Title VII, the PDA, the ADA, the ADEA, and the FCRA all contain ant- retaliation provisions which protect employees against retaliation for opposing an employer’s discriminatory employment practices. Under these statutes, terminating an employee in retaliation for opposing discrimination in the workplace is an illegal reason.
* 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. Under federal and Florida whistleblower laws, terminating an employee in retaliation for engaging in whistleblower activity is an illegal reason.
* Florida law protects employees from retaliation for making or attempting to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Terminating an employee in retaliation for making or attempting to make a workers’ compensation claim is an illegal reason.
* 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. Under the FMLA, terminating an employee in retaliation for taking a leave of absence from work is an illegal reason.
* The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is federal law, requires that employers pay their covered nonexempt employees overtime compensation for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Under the FLSA, terminating an employee in retaliation for complaining about not being paid overtime compensation is an illegal reason.
Employment Law Blog
We offer more information about wrongful termination in our employment law blog.
Contact Us Today For A Free Initial Consultation
If you believe that you have been fired unlawfully, please contact us for a free initial consultation with our Central Florida wrongful termination attorneys. We have substantial experience litigating wrongful termination cases in state and federal court. You will receive personalized and individual attention from our employment law attorneys. Our employee rights law firm takes wrongful termination cases on a contingency fee basis and if we fail to recover on your behalf, we do not get paid. Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we are ready to take your wrongful termination case and fight for your employee rights.