Have you been fired during the pandemic? You may be able to file a coronavirus wrongful termination lawsuit.
Even though Florida is an “at-will” state, which means that employers can fire you for any (legal) reason, you still have protections against unlawful termination during the pandemic.
What Employees Need to Know About Coronavirus & Wrongful Dismissal
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the workplace. Many employees have been fired, which can cause severe consequences to employees and their families.
Certain circumstances could amount to unlawful firing. Employees dealing with wrongful termination because of COVID-19 are protected under various laws and have the legal right to seek recourse against their employer. If you are considering suing for wrongful termination, it is important to understand the types of situations that would be appropriate for a case.
Examples of Coronavirus Wrongful Termination
- Fired While Taking FMLA — When employees need to take off work due to reasons related to the coronavirus, they may be eligible to take leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This could be due to having to take care of a family member that has COVID-19. If you follow the correct processes and don’t go over the time limit, typically 12 weeks, you should be protected against getting fired. This also includes protections under federal and state law against getting fired just for placing the request for FMLA.
- Fired for Complaining About Unsafe Working Conditions — The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act protects workers from unlawful termination due to reporting or complaining about lack of PPE and/or other safe working conditions. These are frequently recognized as “whistleblower” statutes. If you have been fired under these circumstances, your best legal option moving forward could be to file a retaliation or whistleblower complaint with OSHA or a lawsuit.
- Fired Due to Refusing to Work — If you have refused to work due to the risk of contracting COVID-19, you may also be protected by the OSH Act. But certain steps must be taken when refusing to work under dangerous conditions to be legally protected against getting fired. (1) You have a reasonable belief there is an imminent threat of serious physical harm/death (2) You take action in notifying the employer about the situation/hazard (3) The situation/hazard is not fixed by the employer (4) OSHA does not have time to inspect due to the urgency of the hazard.
- Fired for Requesting a COVID-19 related ADA accommodation — The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and its state law counterparts allows for reasonable accommodations at work for employees suffering from a disability. The parameters of the ADA may also allow you to work from home due to a medical condition that makes you highly vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. The ADA has allowances for this if it does not interfere with your ability to perform your work or cause undue hardship on the employer. It is advisable to consult with an employee rights attorney to determine if you qualify for protections under applicable disablity laws.
- Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim —Whether you end up receiving benefits for COVID-19 via a workers’ comp claim -or not – you are protected under state laws against unlawful firing for filing a claim.
- Fired for Refusing to Go To Work During Stay-at-Home Emergency Orders — Employees are protected from getting fired for following federal, state, and local laws detailing emergency orders to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you (or a group of coworkers) were fired after not going to work during a mandated emergency lockdown, consult with an attorney.
These examples above are certain situations that could be appropriate for a case of coronavirus wrongful termination. Due to the unprecedented legal issues that are arising during the pandemic, other situations where employees are covered by federal and/or state law may be considered wrongful termination because of COVID-19.
Wenzel, Fenton, Cabassa, P.A. – Florida Employee Rights Lawyers
The coronavirus pandemic has hurt workers and their families in so many ways. From direct health effects to unlawful termination, Florida families have suffered so much. We are here to help employees have a better future.
The law firm of Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. has experienced, determined, and effective attorneys that fight hard for Florida employees and their families. We understand the multiple negative impacts that occur when someone has been the subject of wrongful termination — and know what it takes to hold powerful employers who violate the law accountable.
We offer free, confidential consultations and have offices across Florida in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Sarasota, Miami, Jacksonville, and West Palm Beach.
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.