Losing your job or being punished for complaining about workplace conduct can adversely affect you and your family. But it’s not always easy to determine whether you were retaliated against or wrongfully terminated by your former employer.
Here are answers to 10 frequently asked questions that will help you better understand your situation.
Was your firing illegal?
Find out with our guide to wrongful termination.
10 Most Common Workplace Retaliation & Wrongful Termination Questions
- What Is Retaliation?
Retaliation is when an employee or job applicant is denied employment, demoted, harassed, fired, or otherwise suffers an adverse employment action by their employer for engaging in a protected action such as:
- filing a charge of discrimination against the employer,
- complaining to the employer about discrimination, or
- taking part in an employment discrimination proceeding, such as an investigation or lawsuit
Retaliation is illegal.
To prove retaliation in the State of Florida, you must show that you engaged in protected activity, such as complaining about discrimination; you were disciplined, fired, or punished by your employer; and that retaliation was the cause of your employer’s action.
A protected activity is defined as opposing illegal practices carried out by your employer, such as filing a complaint with your HR department stating that you believe you were discriminated against because of your age. In addition, taking part in a hearing, investigation, or lawsuit regarding possible illegal practices by your employer is also defined as protected activity.
There are several laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that protect employees from retaliation, including the:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Equal Pay Act
State and local laws also prohibit retaliation, such as the:
- Florida Civil Rights Act
- Florida Private Whistleblower’s Act
- Florida Workers’ Compensation Act
Retaliation covers current and former employees, employees who complain about behavior that turns out not to be illegal, and employees who question unfair treatment toward another employee. Job candidates can also be protected.
Florida is an at-will employment state, which means employers can fire or terminate employees at any time for any reason, or no reason at all, as long as the reason for the adverse employment action is not an unlawful reason.
- Employment-based discrimination
- Opposing or refusing to participate in illegal practices
- Taking leave protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act
- Firing someone in order to avoid paying them at least the minimum wage or overtime wages
It is illegal to treat an employee differently based on:
- Age (over 40)
- National origin
- Disability or handicap
- Marital status (single, married, divorced, or widowed)
- AIDS/HIV, Sickle cell trait, or any other disease while they can still perform their job duties
- Any protected status as defined by state or local law (such as sexual orientation
Although you may be able to get your job back, depending on your circumstances, if you reach a financial settlement, you typically agree as part of that settlement to sever all ties with your former employer.
Under Florida law, you are entitled to receive damages for lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, and other damages or expenses linked to your termination, such as medical bills or counseling.
At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we’re here to help you better understand the ins and outs of workplace retaliation and wrongful termination. Please access our free Wrongful Termination: When Firing Is Illegal guide today or call us to schedule your free consultation.