When you go to work for a company in Florida, you may assume you have a reasonable amount of job security. For example, you may think your employer needs just cause to fire you, and if that happens, he or she must at least give you some type of severance package. Unfortunately, neither of these assumptions are true. Florida is an at-will state, meaning employers have the right to terminate a workers’ employment for almost any reason – or for no reason at all. That does not, however, mean you have no rights as an employee. Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding Florida’s At-Will Employment Laws
U.S. labor laws permit contractual relationships between employers and employees that lead to “at-will employment.” At-will employment means an employer does not have to establish just cause for dismissing an employee, or give him/her warning prior to termination. Likewise, the employee does not have to give notice to the employer before quitting. The at-will laws in Florida mean that all employers in the state may terminate employees for no reason, without fear of an employment lawsuit.
State courts deny employees any claim for dismissal-related damages if the employer hired the worker “at will.” In other words, you cannot allege wrongful termination or file a claim for any losses relating to your boss firing you for no reason. You will, in essence, have no rights to go up against your employer, even if he or she terminated your position with no warning and no logical explanation. It is against the law, however, to fire you for certain “off-limits” reasons. It may also be against your contract to fire you if you weren’t technically an at-will employee.
Protections You Still Have as a Florida Worker
Look at your employment contract for an idea of whether you’re operating as an at-will employee at your current position. At-will employment is the default in Florida, so unless your contract states explicitly otherwise, you are most likely an at-will worker. As an at-will employee, you may still have the right to claim wrongful termination after losing your job if your employer based the decision on one of the following reasons:
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws protecting employees from discrimination. Discrimination describes basing employment decisions on a protected basis, such as race, gender, sex, religion, color, age, or disability. For example, an employer can’t fire you after finding out you’re pregnant. This is discriminatory, and would give you the right to file a lawsuit.
- A Florida employer also cannot fire you for reasons relating to harassment, such as your rejection of sexual advances. Harassment is a type of discrimination that makes a workplace a hostile environment for a worker. You may have a lawsuit against your employer if you believe he/she fired you for rejecting advances or complaining about harassment in the workplace.
- It is against federal law to let an employee go for whistleblowing, or for coming forward with information that could expose the employer’s wrongdoing. If you filed a health, safety, discrimination, harassment, or other complaint against your employer and it resulted in job termination, you could have a case against your employer.
Your employer can fire you for no reason, but he or she cannot fire you (or refuse to hire you) for reasons that breach your employee rights. If you entered into a contract giving you further protections from at-will firing, this will further complicate your case. A contract that gives you job security for a set amount of time, for example, may exempt you from at-will employment laws.
Speaking with a Tampa employment lawyer can help you understand your exact rights after job termination in Florida.