Wrongful Termination: Were You Legally Terminated?
Florida is an “at-will” state, meaning employees may be terminated at any time for whatever reason, including no reason at all.
If you’ve recently lost your job, you may be considering your rights. Just because you reside in an at-will state does not mean you haven’t been wrongfully terminated. Even though the law seems like it’s on the side of the employers, there are still several reasons why you cannot be fired. This is referred to as wrongful termination.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination involves being fired for any of the following reasons:
- A wage dispute or dispute over unpaid overtime
- Breach of Contract
- Time off that’s sanctioned by law
You are not subject to wrongful termination if you were fired for lack of productivity or inability to perform the job you were hired for.
Federal law prohibits employers for firing anyone based on sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age (over 40), race, color, national origin, religion, disability, military service, or gender identity (such as a transgendered individual).
Even with these “protected classes” the burden of proof of discrimination usually falls on the employee, so understanding your rights and keeping detailed records are of the utmost importance.
If you’ve called attention to illegal activity, or activity that violates company policy, and then you were terminated for it, you may have a case for wrongful termination. The Whistle Blower Protection Act safeguards Federal employees and contractors from such actions. Non-government employees may have the right to sue.
If you are in the middle of wage and hour disputes over unpaid wages/overtime with your employer, or if you’ve recently been a part of such disputes, even if they were deliberated in your favor, you may have a wrongful termination complaint. When LinkedIn recently paid out nearly $6 million to its (past and present) employees on a wage dispute, one of the stipulations they agreed to was no retaliation over these payments.
Breach of Contract
If you had an employment contract in which it stipulated you could not be fired under specific conditions, you are not an “at will” employee.
Time Off Sanctioned by Law
There are several forms of time off that are sanctioned by law and an employee cannot be fired for taking time off for these reasons. They include the following kinds of unpaid leave:
- Jury Duty
- Military Leave – up to 5 years of unpaid leave to serve in the military.
- Family Leave – employees working for larger companies may take off up to 12-weeks a year to care for themselves, a relative, a newborn, or practical matters surrounding a family member’s deployment/military service.
These reasons are only examples of situations (there may be others) in which there is a case for a wrongful termination suit.
If you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated, or have questions regarding your employment rights, contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today to schedule your free consultation at 813-579-2483.