The Employee’s Guide to At-Will Employment in Florida
Employees in Florida are subject to the state’s At-Will Employment laws. This means that an employee can be terminated at any time, for any reason (or no reason), with or without advanced notice. While this may seem like it gives employers a lot of power over their employees, there are still certain protections in place to help protect employee rights and limit when an employee can be terminated.
In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about At-Will Employment in Florida, from the basics of the law, to when a termination may qualify as wrongful termination rather than an at-will firing. We’ll also provide guidance on what you should do if you feel your rights have been violated.
At Yormak Employment & Disability Law, our team is dedicated to helping employees protect their workplace rights and ensure they are treated fairly by their employers. If you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated or you feel like you have experienced any other form of discrimination in the workplace, contact us for a confidential consultation.
What are the limitations on Florida employers with regard to terminating an employee?
At-Will Employment has some limitations that protect employees from wrongful termination. These limitations include but are not limited to:
- Discrimination – The Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and other applicable laws forbid employers from terminating employees based on race, gender, age, religion, national origin, disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, marital status, or other discriminatory reasons.
- Taking FMLA Leave – Employees cannot be terminated for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act
- Filing a Workers Compensation Claim – Employees cannot be terminated for filing a worker’s compensation claim
- Jury Duty – Employees cannot be terminated for taking leave to serve jury duty
- Retaliation for Reporting Unsafe Work Conditions or Whistleblowing – Employers cannot punish an employee for reporting unsafe working conditions or for engaging in whistleblowing activities
- Retaliation for Reporting the Employer for Breaking the Law – An employee cannot be terminated for reporting their employer’s illegal activity
- Breaching a Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing – An employer cannot terminate an employee if it breaches its obligation to act fairly, honestly, and in good faith
- Implied Contract – An implied contract exists when an employer’s words or actions suggest that the employee can only be terminated for a specific reason or for cause.
These are just some of the restrictions that employers must adhere to when terminating an employee. If an employer fails to follow these limitations and terminates an employee in violation of applicable laws or contractual agreements, it may be liable for wrongful termination.
When can an employee file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer?
If an employee believes they have been wrongfully terminated, they may be able to file a lawsuit against their employer. To do so, the employee must prove that the termination was in violation of applicable laws or contractual agreements. This can include proving discrimination, breach of contract, retaliation for reporting unsafe work conditions or whistleblowing activities, or other illegal behavior. Additionally, the employee must demonstrate that they were “injured” by the termination and show how much money they lost as a result of the wrongful termination.
What happens when an employee successfully brings a wrongful termination lawsuit against their former employer?
If an employee successfully brings a wrongful termination lawsuit against their former employer, the court may order the employer to pay back wages, compensatory damages for emotional distress and other losses, punitive damages if applicable, attorney fees, reinstatement of job position, or even job promotion. In addition, the court can also award injunctive relief which is an order from the court requiring the employer to take certain actions such as promoting or rehiring an employee. This remedy is typically used when there is a continuing violation of the employment contract, such as wrongfully denying promotions or refusing to pay back wages.
What should you do if you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated?
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is important to take immediate action. The best first step is to contact an experienced employment law attorney who can review your case and advise you on the best course of action. An attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process and may be able to negotiate a settlement or file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between an at-will and a contract employee?
At-will employees are those who do not have an employment contract and can be terminated at any time, with or without cause. Contract employees, on the other hand, are subject to a contract that outlines their rights, duties and obligations and must be terminated according to the terms of the contract. If an employee is wrongfully terminated in violation of the contract, they may be able to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.
What is a “good cause” exception to the at-will employment rule?
Many contracts only allow for immediate termination (i.e. with no notice or severance), if the employer can demonstrate “good cause.” A “good cause” exception to the at-will employment rule is a legal doctrine that allows an employee to challenge their termination or other adverse employment action if they can show that it was not based on any reasonable grounds. The idea behind this exception is to provide employees with greater protection against arbitrary and capricious actions by employers. In Florida, employers must prove that the termination or other action was for a justifiable cause, such as poor job performance or misconduct. If an employee can prove that there was no good cause for their dismissal, they may be able to recover damages from their employer.
Does Florida recognize an implied contract between employer and employee even if there isn’t a written agreement?
Yes, Florida does recognize an implied contract between employer and employee even if there isn’t a written agreement. The key elements of this kind of implied contract are that the employer has made some type of promise to the employee in exchange for their services and that the employee is relying on the promise in order to do their job properly. If you believe that you have an implied contract with your employer, it is important to seek legal advice to protect your workplace rights.
Does the company have to give certain warnings before terminating me if I’m an at-will employee?
If you are an at-will employee in the state of Florida, your company does not have to provide any warning before terminating you.
Are there any federal laws that may protect me even though I am an at-will employee?
At-will employees in Florida are subject to both federal and state laws. Nearly all of the anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws provide an exception ot the “at-will doctrine.” There are laws that protect you from discrimination or workplace harassment based on your gender, race, age, national origin, or disability, or status as a whistleblower, to name a few examples.
What is a severance package and how does it affect at-will employees in Florida?
A severance package is an agreement between an employer and employee that typically includes a lump sum of money or other benefits provided in exchange for the employee’s release from their employment contract. For at-will employees in Florida, this means they must be given certain protections under the law such as being notified of their rights and responsibilities prior to signing the severance package. Additionally, they must usually be allowed access to legal counsel who can explain the terms of the agreement and help protect their workplace rights if necessary. If you are an at-will employee in Florida and have been offered a severance package, it is important to understand how this could affect your future employment prospects. Contact us for a confidential consultation to discuss your situation.
Are there any special rules that apply to the termination of public sector employees who are at-will?
Yes, while public sector employees in Florida are generally considered to be “at-will” employees, they may enjoy greater protections than private sector employees. In particular, any termination of a public sector employee must comply with applicable constitutional and statutory provisions.
Can I still receive unemployment benefits if I am an at-will employee and have been wrongfully terminated?
Yes, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are an at-will employee and were wrongfully terminated.
Contact a Florida At-Will Employment Lawyer Today
If you believe that your termination did not meet the requirements of at-will employment or was a result of discrimination, then you may have legal recourse. At Yormak Employment & Disability Law, our team is experienced in protecting employees’ workplace rights and understands the complexities of this area of law. We can provide you with personalized legal guidance so that you can make informed decisions about your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.