How to File a Wrongful Termination Claim in Florida
Learn how to file a wrongful termination claim in Florida with the help of FairLaw Firm, your trusted resource for legal guidance and support. Contact FairLaw Firm today!
Wrongful termination occurs when employees are dismissed from their jobs for illegal reasons. Filing a claim for wrongful termination is tricky as Florida is an ‘at-will employment’ state. This means employers and employees can end their employment at any time, for any legal reason, or even without reason.
Employers sometimes hide behind this arrangement to terminate their employees’ employment in bad faith. Therefore, some federal and state laws exist to limit this. Dismissal on certain grounds is illegal even with an ‘at-will employment’ arrangement, and employees may sue for wrongful termination.
As an employee, it’s essential to understand what constitutes wrongful dismissal so that you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of.
Let’s explore some of the grounds on which you can bring a wrongful termination claim and how exactly to file such a claim in Florida.
Legal Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Claim in Florida
1. Violation of State and Federal Employment Laws
Several federal and state laws exist to protect employee rights and ensure fair treatment at work. If an employer decides to dismiss an employee to get away with violating these employment laws, it could amount to wrongful termination.
For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) requires employers to pay employees at a minimum hourly rate and that eligible employees receive overtime pay. If an employer owes their workers overtime wages and dismisses them to avoid paying these wages or fires an employee because of a complaint, a civil action may be sustained against them for wrongful termination.
Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on color, sex, national origin and religion, and race. The Florida Civil Rights Act additionally prohibits employment discrimination based on disability, ancestry, marital status, sickle cell trait, and H.I.V./Aids status.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C.), sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.
Therefore, if you are dismissed because you fall into any of these protected classes of individuals, it is illegal, and you can bring a wrongful termination claim against your employer.
Under state and federal employment law, dismissing an employee as retaliation for their lawful actions is illegal. The EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) laws provide a list of protected activities for which employers cannot retaliate.
These include answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment, refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination, resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others, among other acts. The False Claims Act also protects whistleblowers federally from any form of retaliation.
Meanwhile, Florida’s labor law contains express provisions prohibiting retaliatory action against employees on specific grounds. Therefore, if you suspect your termination is retaliation by your employer for any of your actions during employment, you may be able to get your job back or recover compensation through a wrongful termination lawsuit.
4. Breach of Contract
While Florida has an at-will employment system, this can be varied by an employment contract. So if an employee’s contract states that they can only be dismissed on specific terms, any termination would be illegal unless these terms are fulfilled. The contract may be oral or written. However, it is much easier to prove and enforce a written employment contract.
5. Violation of Public Policy
Employee dismissals that violate public policy in other ways than those mentioned above can give rise to wrongful termination claims. For example, an employer who fires an employee for refusing to do something illegal would violate public policy.
Bringing a claim for wrongful termination based on public policy violation is tricky. The reason is that the rules that constitute public policy are not necessarily written in statutes and laws. As such, your ability to prove your case would depend heavily on having skilled legal representation and the facts of your case.
Steps to Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim in Florida
1. Gather Evidence
Before filing your claim, you should gather as much evidence as possible to prove your case. This could include employment records, pay stubs, relevant emails and voice memos, employee reviews, witness lists, text messages, and written personal accounts of what transpired. All these make it easier for your lawyer to prove your case in court. Consult your employment lawyer for advice if you need help determining what evidence to gather.
2. File a Complaint with the E.E.O.C. or F.C.H.R.
Before bringing a claim to court, you must file a complaint with the appropriate government organization. The two main bodies a Florida employee may file a complaint with are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C.) and the Florida Commission on Human Relations (F.C.H.R.).
You have 300 days from the date of the alleged violation to make a complaint with the E.E.O.C. and 365 days to file with the F.C.H.R. You can file simultaneously with the E.E.O.C. and the F.C.H.R. However, only one agency will investigate the claim due to their work-sharing agreement.
When the E.E.O.C. receives your complaint, it will be reviewed for procedural errors before an investigation begins. At the end of the investigation, if it is determined that the law has been violated, the E.E.O.C. will try to negotiate a settlement between you and the employer. If this settlement does not work, the E.E.O.C. will issue you a notice of right to sue, which allows you to file a suit against the offending employer in court.
On the other hand, if your complaint is dismissed, you have thirty days to appeal to EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations.
Meanwhile, the FCHR has 180 days to issue a determination on your case if they are the agency in charge of its investigation. A ‘no cause’ determination gives you the right to request an administrative hearing, whereas a ‘reasonable cause determination’ or no decision within 180 days allows you to sue your employer in court.
3. File a Lawsuit in Court
You can file a suit in court within 90 days of being issued a notice of the right to sue by the EEOC. Ideally, you should be represented by a firm with enough experience and an excellent track record representing clients in Florida employment law cases.
In the pretrial stage, parties will review documents and available evidence, consider the merits of the case and rehearse testimonies as the case may be. Then the case will go to trial, where arguments will be made, witnesses cross-examined, and testimonies given. The jury will come to a verdict, and the judge will grant appropriate remedies if the case is decided in the employee’s favor. This could be job reinstatement, damages for emotional distress, wages lost, benefits, bonuses, overtime pay, and so on.
Your employer does not necessarily have to get away with wrongful termination when there are laws in place to protect your rights. However, you need to seek experienced and trained legal counsel on time to determine a basis for your suit. Your attorney would also guide you on the proper steps to take, considering the facts of your case.
For capable and effective legal representation, look no further than FairLaw Firm. We are dedicated to defending employee rights in Florida, and our years of experience put us in a uniquely equipped position to help you. Reach out to us now and let us help you with your Florida wrongful termination claim.