What Does Employment At Will Mean?
Employment at will means that you can be fired at any time as long as it’s not for an unlawful reason. I call this the “white shoes after Labor Day rule,” which means that you can be fired for wearing white shoes after Labor Day, as ridiculous as that sounds. You cannot, however, be fired for the color of your skin, national origin, race, age, gender, sex, disability, or religion. Employment at will is basically a contractual relationship between an employee and employer; just like an employee can quit at any time and the employer cannot sue them, an employer can fire an employee at any time and the employee cannot sue them.
What Is Wrongful Termination Under Florida Law?
Wrongful termination is a term used to say that someone was fired unlawfully. For example, if an employee was fired because of their membership in a protected category, then that would be an unlawful termination. If an employee was fired for standing up for their rights, then that would be an unlawful termination. This is to protect employees from retaliation by an employer. For example, if an employee feels that their employer is sexually harassing them, then the employee would be free to file a complaint with the human resources department without fearing retaliation by the employer. In essence, the employee would be exercising their statutorily protected right to object to an unlawful employment action.
The second part of the retaliation claim is that the employee suffered some adverse employment action, meaning that they were fired, or that there was a change in the terms and conditions of their employment. The third element of the retaliation case is that there is some causal connection between the employee exercising their statutorily protected right and the Adverse Employment Act. The easiest way to show this is by proving closeness in terms of the time between a complaint and an adverse action. For example, if an employee reported their boss for sexually harassing them, and the employee were fired two days later, then those events would meet the basic elements of a harassment case because of the timing of the complaint and the adverse action. Being fired for complaining about not getting paid the correct amount of wages, or for requesting family medical leave would also be considered unlawful retaliation and unlawful termination.
When Can I Bring A Claim For Discrimination Against My Employer In Florida?
If you suspect that your employer is treating you differently based on your national origin, race, age, gender, sex, religion, or disability, then you can bring a discrimination claim against that employer. If you are still working for the employer, then you would be protected against retaliation by the employer. In these cases, you must exhaust your administrative remedies, which means you need to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge of discrimination. This can be done online through the Miami District Office or through the former Florida Commission on Human Relations. You will need to co-file a charge of discrimination within one year of the incident, or else be forever barred from doing so.
The EEOC or the Florida Commission on Human Relations will investigate the claim and determine whether or not there’s cause to move forward. Most of these administrative agencies are so backed up that the 180-day period expires before they make a determination. For this reason, it is almost like a 180-day waiting period. If they issue a right to sue notice, then you can file a lawsuit in state or federal court. There are two laws that we generally file discrimination cases under: Title 7, which is the federal law, and the Florida Civil Rights Act, which is the state law patterned after Title 7. There are varying reasons we may want to file on a state versus federal level.
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