Florida employers can fire employees without giving a reason. Florida is an “at-will” employment state. This means an employee can be fired for any reason, so long as it’s not an “unlawful reason.” An example of an unlawful reason would be firing because of race, national origin, age, sex, religion, or disability.
Florida Laws On Firing Employees
There is no law in Florida that requires an employer to provide a reason for why they’re firing an employee. Only in an unlawful termination lawsuit is an employer required to provide a “legitimate, non-discriminatory” reason for the termination. If an employee proves the basic elements of a wrongful termination claim, the burden then shifts to the employer to offer a “legitimate, non-discriminatory” reason for their actions. For example, an employer could cite poor performance or violation of company policy as the reason for the employee’s termination.
After an employer offers a “legitimate, non-discriminatory” reason for termination, the burden shifts back to the employee to show that the employer’s reason was not true. So, if an employer claims the employee was fired for poor performance, yet the employee has always had excellent performance reviews, this could satisfy the employee’s burden of proving the employer’s reason is not worthy of belief or “pretextual.”
Ask Why You’re Being Fired
If an employee thinks they’ve been fired unlawfully it never hurts to ask why. Sometimes, an employer will open-up and give you hints into the real reason you were fired. Direct evidence of unlawful termination is extremely rare these days. Most unlawful termination cases are built on circumstantial evidence. Admissions of fact by the decision-maker at the termination meeting could make the difference between winning and losing an unlawful termination case in Florida.
Signing Termination Paperwork
First, before signing anything you should always read what you’re signing. This is good advice in everything you do.
Second, if the paper work cites to the reason why you’re fired and you disagree with that reason, write somewhere on the margin that you disagree with their reason. You don’t want that document to be used against you later on as an admission. For example, if the paperwork says you’re being fired for violating a company policy and you sign acknowledging the paperwork, it could be viewed as you’re agreeing with the employer’s position. This doesn’t happen often, but you want to make sure the record is clear.
Most paperwork that you sign after a termination is to provide you with information on moving forward. You’ll like receive information on extending health insurance benefits (COBRA) and rolling over 401k accounts, etc. However, you want to make sure you’re not signing your rights away. I had a case once where the employee was fired and she was told she had to sign the document. The employee didn’t read the document and she actually signed a severance release. Thankfully, we were able to revoke the severance release and file a wrongful termination lawsuit, but had the employee waited she may have lost her right to sue. So, it’s always a good idea to run any termination paperwork by a qualified employment lawyer first!
For More Information
The Longo Firm
12555 Orange Drive, Ste. 233
Davie, FL 33330
Tel: (954) 862-3608
Fax: (954) 944-1916
Micah J. Longo
Fla. Bar No. 97333