Wrongful Termination Laws in Florida

By Adele Nicholas
Workers, discriminatory firing, Florida law

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Under Florida law, most jobs are considered to be "at will," meaning that employers can fire workers without a good reason, and employees can likewise quit their jobs when they want to. However, Florida does recognize some exceptions to at-will employment, including termination for a discriminatory reason or a reason that violates an employment contract.

Illegal Discrimination

Both federal law and Florida law make it illegal for employers, labor organizations and employment agencies to discriminate on the basis of an employee's or applicant's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status. This means that an employer cannot base employment decisions — such as hiring, compensation, discipline, conditions of employment or termination — on those protected characteristics. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against someone who reports discrimination or assists another worker with her claim of discrimination.

Breach of Contract

Employees are not treated as "at will" if they have an employment contract. Generally, an employment contract is a written document setting the terms and conditions of employment and the reasons for which a person can be fired from his job. Employment contracts are not common except for highly compensated executives or union members. A few states recognize the concept of an "implied" employment contract — an unwritten agreement that an employer will employ workers for a certain amount of time and will only fire them for specified and valid reasons. However, Florida courts have rejected wrongful termination claims based on implied employment contracts.

Public Policy

Title XXXI, Section 448.102 of the Florida statutes makes it illegal for an employer to fire someone because she refuses to do something illegal, because she testifies in court or before a government agency about an employer's illegal activity or because she has disclosed or threatened to disclose an employer's illegal actions to a government agency. The only caveat is that the employee must first notify her supervisor of the illegal activity and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct it before making a report.

Filing a Complaint

A person who believes he has been wrongfully terminated from his job in Florida has several ways to make a claim. The Florida Commission on Human Relations and its federal equivalent, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, handle claims of wrongful termination for a discriminatory reason, such as the employee's race, religion or sex. Other claims of wrongful termination can be taken directly to state court through filing a lawsuit in the county court where the wrongful termination occurred.

About the Author

Adele Nicholas is a writer in Chicago. Since 2003, she has been a contributor to publications including Corporate Legal Times, ChicagoMag.com and InsideCounsel magazine. Nicholas holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the John Marshall Law School.

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