Understanding Florida Termination Laws
Florida is an at-will employment state. In the simplest terms, at-will employment gives the employer the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any lawful reason.
Nevertheless, at-will employers do not have completely unfettered discretion to terminate their workers’ employment, even in Florida.
Firing someone for a prohibited reason could lead to substantial financial losses under Florida’s employment termination laws.
Consequently, you should discuss Florida laws on firing employees with knowledgeable and experienced Florida employment lawyers if you have any questions about firing an employee.
At Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon, our Florida employment lawyers will ensure that you comply with Florida employment law if you need to terminate someone’s employment.
Florida Laws on Firing Employees
Every person working for another in Florida is presumptively an at-will employee. At-will employment can be beneficial for both the employer and employee because either side may terminate their employment arrangement.
Accordingly, employees can move from the company as they deem appropriate. Similarly, employers can let at-will employees go for almost any reason.
An employee is not at-will if a contractual arrangement governs their employment.
The contract terms should determine every aspect of the employer-employee relationship, including how the employer may terminate the contract before the expiration date.
Florida employment contracts could be on an individual basis or collectively bargained for by a union.
Employees regard Florida employment law concerning termination to be harsh. Employers have no obligation to give the employee notice of termination. Also, Florida law does not require an employer to provide the employee with a reason for termination.
Additionally, Florida laws on firing employees strictly limit what can constitute an employment contract.
Several states recognize implied contracts created by employee handbooks; however, Florida does not. Florida law recognizes only written employment contracts that expressly set forth the terms of employment.
Florida termination laws distinguish the state from nearly the entire country in another meaningful way. In the United States, only a handful of states do not recognize the public policy exception to the at-will employment rule.
Under the widely held public policy exception, an employer cannot fire an employee for reasons the general public would find distasteful or unjust. That exception does not apply in Florida.
Restrictions on Employers Under Florida Termination Laws
No employer has the right to discharge a Florida employee for an unlawful reason. Under federal and state employment laws, no employer can terminate an employee based on a discriminatory motive.
Therefore, employees cannot be fired based on their:
- Sexual preference,
- Decision to marry,
- Decision to have a family,
- Country of origin,
- Religious beliefs or affiliations,
- Health, or
Florida and federal law prohibit employers from discharging employees for asserting their rights to associate or express themselves.
Moreover, Florida employment laws on firing employees prevent employers from firing people who comply with their legal obligations to answer a subpoena or attend jury service. Florida’s employment laws also protect domestic violence victims in some situations.
Anti-Retaliation and Whistleblowing Laws
Federal law and Florida law expressly prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who report unlawful or harmful conduct. Whistleblower protections are significant.
Any adverse employment action taken against a whistleblower or someone who avails themselves of lawful benefits will have severe repercussions for the employer.
Employers must understand that employees who exercise their rights or participate in investigations relating to the company are not immune from termination. An employer can still fire that person for a valid and lawful reason.
But navigating such a termination can be complicated. The employer should seek help from experienced and savvy Florida employment lawyers who can guide them through the process without violating anyone’s rights.
What Should an Employer Do When Letting An Employee Go?
Even though Florida employment laws regarding termination of employment significantly protect employers, businesses have obligations to their discharged employees.
Employers must give 60 days’ notice of intent to lay off 50 or more employees at any one site or 33% of your workforce. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in significant financial penalties.
Employers must pay their employees after termination. However, you do not have to pay a discharged employee until the next pay period.
Employers may incur financial burdens after lawfully discharging their employees. Laid-off employees can claim unemployment benefits.
Additionally, terminated employees—except those fired for gross misconduct—must have access to health insurance known as COBRA. The employer must allow access to COBRA for up to 18 months after discharging the employee.
Seek Competent Advice Regarding Florida Employment Law for Employee Termination
Deciding to fire an employee may be a difficult decision for you. Do not make a difficult situation worse by not consulting lawyers with a proven track record of helping employers avoid disputes with their employees.
Since 1913, the law firm of Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon has continued to shepherd Florida businesses through tumultuous times. Our team of Florida employment lawyers has significant experience guiding employers through difficult decisions.