Understanding At-Will Employment
Florida is an at-will state, which means you can be fired at any time for any reason or no reason at all. You are employed at the will of your employer. However, that doesn’t mean you’re without rights. You are protected by Federal law from workplace discrimination and wrongful termination. But just what does that mean?
Workplace Discrimination and At-Will Employment
Assuming your company meets the minimum employee number (generally, 15 for discrimination and 50 for FMLA), it cannot discriminate against you based on any of the following reasons:
- Sex and gender
- Pregnancy discrimination
- National origin or race
- Actions such as whistleblowing, filing a Worker’s Compensation claim, or a sexual harassment or bullying charge
Although it is unlawful to fire someone for any of these reasons, some employers do so anyway. Employment law can be difficult to understand, and many employees don’t realize they have rights in an at-will state.
Your company surely won’t tell you. Here’s an example of how some companies think they are getting around the law:
A woman shares her pregnancy news with her employer. The manager receives it graciously and congratulates the employee. The manager makes allowances for doctor’s appointments and special weight-lifting restrictions. It seems to be a very family friendly environment. Two weeks before the employee is to go out on FMLA, the employer fires her, telling her she’s no longer needed in the department.
And this is not the first time they’ve done this.
This is a case of pregnancy discrimination. While the employer will present that they made allowances for the employee during her pregnancy, and that they are within their right to terminate someone at any time, they may have a track record of firing pregnant women about to go on leave. This keeps the company from having to hold the women’s spots for 12-weeks while they’re protected by FMLA. It also saves money on benefits.
A skilled workplace discrimination attorney will uncover that pattern and make sure that employer doesn’t continue to discriminate against pregnant women.
Additional Compensation and Wrongful Termination
People assume that if they’re fired, they lose all money (including overtime, commission and eligibility for unemployment) outside of their final paycheck. That’s not true. Even if you are fired for cause — meaning you’ve been reprimanded and placed on a performance improvement plan — you are still eligible for unemployment, unless you engaged in “misconduct”.
Unpaid wages and other money for time worked (such as overtime) must be paid as well if you are fired. Your employer must send a final paycheck within a “reasonable” amount of time. That is generally believed to be about 2 weeks to a month from your termination date.
If your employer is withholding your final paycheck, commission, or unpaid wages, you don’t have to pursue your rights alone. Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. offers you a free consultation if you think you’ve experienced wrongful termination or workplace discrimination. Call us today.