Employees who feel they have been subjected to a wrongful termination in Florida can sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (federal law) or under the Florida Civil Rights Act (state law). Florida is an at-will employment state. This means you can be terminated for any reason, so long as, it’s not an unlawful reason. An example of an unlawful reason would be you are fired because of your race, national origin, age, sex, religions, or disability. These are the protected classes under federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
An employee can sue for wrongful termination in Florida if the reason they are being terminated is because of their membership in a protected class. For example, if a decision to terminate a woman was motivated by her being a woman (i.e. sex), and not some other legitimate, non-discriminatory reason, then she may sue for wrongful termination in Florida. However, if she was fired only because of poor performance, then she likely cannot sue for wrongful termination in Florida.
Filing: Charge of Discrimination
If an employee believes they have been wrongfully terminated they must file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within 300 days of the termination. I recommend employees who want to sue for wrongful termination co-file that charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (“FCHR”). This gives employees the opportunity to bring a wrongful termination case under the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”) which is a better law to sue under for wrongful termination for employees.
The best way to avoid a wrongful termination is to report the behavior to the Human Resources (“HR”) department. This should be done in writing and as soon as possible. By reporting the unlawful behavior to HR you are exercising your statutorily protected rights. Then, if you are terminated shortly after reporting the behavior to HR, you have a prima facia case of “retaliation.” In other words, it is unlawful to fire someone for reporting discrimination in the workplace. This isn’t to say that you cannot still be fired for a legitimate reason, even if you made a report of discrimination. For example, if the employer states the employee was fired for performance and not because he or she made a complaint to HR, then the burden of proof shifts back to the employee to prove that the reason offered by the employer is false.
Retaliation cases are much easier to prove. All that is required is a good faith belief that discrimination is taking place. There are cases where the plaintiff loses the discrimination part of the case, but wins on retaliation. This is especially true when an employee is fired just after making a written complaint to HR or filing a charge of discrimination.
For example, suppose employee feels his boss is treating him badly and it’s because he is Black. The employee files a written complaint with HR claiming that he boss is discriminating against him and the reason is because of the color of his skin. Two (2) weeks later the employee is fired. Provided the employee can prove that he wasn’t fired for some other legitimate, non-retaliatory reason, he has a winning retaliation case.
For More Information
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated because of your race, national origin, age, sex, religion, or disability, you can sue in Florida. For more information visit our Davie employment law firm website at longofirm.com.
The Longo Firm
12555 Orange Drive, Ste. 233
Davie, FL 33330
Tel: (954) 862-3608
Fax: (954) 944-1916
Micah J. Longo