Hired and fired at-will: What is wrongful termination under Florida employment law?
What does at-will employment mean?
The at-will employment law is common in the United States, with all 50 states having an at-will policy. At will means that the employed party may leave their job at any time with any reason without advanced notice, and the employer may fire the employee at any time without advanced notice.
However, 42 out of the 50 states have an exception stating that an employee may not be fired if the employee’s termination would violate the state’s public policy doctrine or a state or federal statute. The eight states that have exceptions to this rule are:
- New York
- Rhode Island
In Florida, three limited conditions can override an at-will agreement. Those three exceptions are:
- If the employee has disclosed or threatened to disclose activity, policy, or the employer’s practice that is in violation of a rule, law, or regulation.
- If the employee has provided information to a government agency or testified before them against the employer.
- Or if the employee objected to or refused to participate in any activity that the employer asked them to, that may have violated a law, rule, or regulation.
In these three cases, the employer is not legally allowed to take any retaliatory action against the employee, including firing them.
Can I be fired for no reason?
Firing employees with no reasoning poses not only the question of ethics but law. Some state that if you live in an at-will state, you can be fire for absolutely no reason. And while this is partially true, some circumstances in which firing employees can be considered wrongful—even in an at-will state.
If you are fired for:
- Discrimination: termination due to race, age, sex, pregnancy, national origin, marital status, color, region, or disability is illegal in Florida as long as the company you work for has more than 15 employees.
- Reporting or objecting to discrimination: You cannot be fired for reporting harassment or discrimination.
- Objecting to or refusing to participate in discrimination, harassment, or illegal activity
- Making a worker’s compensation claim
- Taking leave due to sickness, disability, or medical condition of a family member
- Being owed overtime or wages: You cannot be fired for objecting to not being paid for your time.
- Breach of control: If your contract states that you can only be terminated for cause, your employer may have to pay you the rest of the contract if they end it early without reason.
If you were fired for any of these circumstances, you might be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.
When is termination considered wrongful?
Termination is considered wrongful when you are terminated for no reason other than one that is illegal. For example, if you’re fired after filing a worker’s compensation claim, that would be considered wrongful termination.
However, termination is only wrongful when there is no other reason for your firing. You must be able to prove that there was no other reason for which they fired you. If you can, then you may be able to file a claim for wrongful termination.
To be wrongfully terminated is to be fired for an illegal reason involving the violation of state or federal laws. For example, as anti-discrimination laws, breach of contract, or many other set-in-stone laws, such as Florida’s exception laws.
Most often, wrongful termination occurs as retaliation for something that an employee has done and not because of discrimination. If you’ve been fired as retaliation for reporting a workplace injury, sexual harassment, or discrimination, you may be able to bring legal action against your former workplace.
Can I sue a company for wrongful termination?
If you’ve been wrongfully terminated, you may have the legal rights to severance pay, damages, or unemployment compensation that you were not given by your employer when you were wrongfully fired.
If you’re thinking about filing a lawsuit against your employer to receive compensation, make sure that your case is iron-clad and that there’s no possible reason for your firing to have been justified.
Often, wrongful termination is assumed when the employer had a completely legal and justified reason for firing someone. However, if you’re unsure of your case’s strength or whether you have a case at all, talking to an employment law attorney will be your best bet.
When should I hire an employment law attorney?
You should hire an attorney as soon as possible after being fired if you believe that your termination was wrongful. A Florida employment attorney will help determine whether or not you have a case against your attorney.
They’ll also be able to help you get the compensation that you deserve for any severance and unemployment benefits.