You have lost your job. It does not seem fair. But is it illegal? That depends on the situation. It is illegal if it is considered to be a “wrongful termination.”
What is Considered Wrongful Termination in the State of Florida?
Wrongful termination which is another way of referring to an illegal termination may occur even in an “at-will” state. Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires you in violation of specific protections under federal, state or local employment law.
Can you sue for wrongful termination in Florida? Yes. But how do you know when you have a case in an “at-will” state?
Certainly, your rights in an “at-will” state like Florida can be confusing.
“At will” means an employer can terminate employment for any reason — or none at all — except for cases involving contracts (written or implied), a protected class, protected activity, or approved leave. The details can be tricky without a legal background. So if there is any doubt as to whether you were covered under these protections, read below and then consult an attorney:
What is Considered Wrongful Termination?
Generally, if your company employs 15 or more employees, you cannot be fired because of a discriminatory reason, including those based on:
- Sex and Gender (including transgender)
- Race or national origin
- Age (20 or more employees)
The number of employees required to trigger protection may be less than 15 if you are employed in an area subject to less restrictive local ordinances. Workplace discrimination can cause emotional stress, loss of focus, and a drop in job performance. It is a serious matter. It can also cause harm to your career, your financial future and affect your family too.
When discussing “What is Wrongful Termination?” – we must also address the subject of retaliation. In addition to the types of discrimination described above, there are also particular activities for which you cannot be fired in retaliation, which include:
- Complaining about sexual harassment or a hostile work environment
- Seeking worker’s compensation benefits
- Complaining about discrimination
- Pursuing unpaid overtime or unpaid wages
Cases of retaliation occur more than many people think. They are equally serious and should be pursued with the help of an employment law expert.
The ability to take approved unpaid leave is an important protection that many individuals and families across Florida need. Employers cannot terminate you because you have taken or are entitled to take approved leave due to:
- Military service
- Jury duty
- Approved FMLA
Employees have powerful protections for unpaid leave. Your job should be secure when you have approved leave due to service in the military, jury duty, or approved FMLA leave to have a baby or take care of a sick or injured loved one.
Whether a wrongful termination is due to discrimination, retaliation, or unpaid leave issues, you have a right to seek justice and that may include filing a lawsuit.. When you speak with an attorney, they will review and analyze the details of the case to help you determine if your firing could have been illegal and protected under employment laws.
Employment laws that cover employees include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Florida Civil Rights Act.
I THINK I HAVE A WRONGFUL TERMINATION CASE. NOW WHAT?
If you believe you have a case for wrongful termination, it is time to gather your proof. You have the power to take action.
GATHER AS MUCH FROM YOUR EMPLOYER AS POSSIBLE
Notes on the events surrounding your termination, your personnel file, conversations about why the dismissal took place, the contact information of employees involved in the termination or similar circumstances, work commendations, texts, emails, and letters may all become important to prove your case.
Gather as much as you can that could be relevant to the adverse action taken by your employer. Even if you are unsure if you have enough documentation, it is critical to move forward. You may have more than you think. An expert attorney in employment law will advise you regarding the viability of the case.
If there are any unpaid wages due, make that request now. If you are turned down, seek the help of a wage dispute attorney immediately.
Also, even if you were “terminated” you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Receiving such benefits does not affect your right to sue your former employer for wrongful termination.
We understand the importance of unemployment benefits to individuals and families across the state.
FILE WITH THE EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION (EEOC)
No matter how strong your case, you often cannot file a wrongful termination suit against your employer without first filing with the EEOC and the Florida Commission on Human Rights. In Florida, you have 300 days from the alleged discriminatory event to file a charge of discrimination. An employment attorney is not required for this step, but you can be assured your former employer will have one, so there is no reason to put yourself at a disadvantage from the start. Choose an attorney skilled in EEOC mediation who offers a free consultation to discuss your case’s chances before wading into the EEOC process alone. The EEOC does not represent you as the Charging Party.
After the EEOC reviews your case, you will most likely be issued a “Right to Sue” letter. At this point, you will have a short 90-day deadline to file a lawsuit under many Federal laws. These deadlines can come up quickly when considering filing a case of wrongful termination against your employer. If you have not already, you should promptly consult an attorney specializing in employment law.
Contact a Wrongful Termination Attorney
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. has handled thousands of wrongful termination cases for employees. Our tenacious employment lawyers can help you navigate the process and work aggressively for the optimum outcome for your case.
Your consultation is free. Contact us today.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. has locations across the state to help employees in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, and Jacksonville.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.