You’re Fired. But Were You Wrongfully Terminated?
It’s not as clear-cut as you might think.
Your former boss was a petty tyrant who fired you last week for no good reason. You have a history of terrific performance reviews, were never late to work, and always did your best to be courteous to customers and clients. Clearly, what he did was unfair, and you think you’ve got a shot at winning a wrongful termination lawsuit against him. Do you?
Unfortunately, probably not. It’s not easy to win this kind of lawsuit in Florida, largely because there’s no general “wrongful termination” statute here. Florida is what is known as an “at-will” state, which basically means that your employer can fire you for almost any reason, or even no reason at all. If your boss decides he doesn’t like the color of your socks or that he’s tired of you filling the office with the smell of microwave popcorn every afternoon, he’s most likely within his rights to let you go if that’s what he wants to do.
However, workers do have some protection from wrongful termination in Florida. This protection comes from a patchwork of statutes – at both the state and federal level – that are designed to address certain employment-related situations. Specifically, employees in Florida cannot be legally fired for discriminatory reasons, in violation of an employment contract, or in retaliation for exercising one’s rights.
Let’s look at each of these a bit more closely.
It’s illegal to fire an employee because of the employee’s:
- national origin;
- marital status;
- citizenship status;
- AIDS/HIV status;
- sickle cell trait; or
- genetic information.
Most of these types of discrimination are covered by both state and federal law, although a few of them are only covered by one or the other. But it’s important to remember that these restrictions don’t necessarily apply to all employers.
For example, employers that employ fewer than fifteen people generally aren’t subject to these statutes. (The one exception is citizenship discrimination, which has a minimum size threshold of four employees.)
Note also that there is no prohibition against discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in Florida.