Employment Claims - Employee

In Florida unless you have an employment contract or are a career service employee working for the State, all employment is "at will". This means you can be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason. However, you cannot be fired for an unlawful reason. These unlawful reasons generally fall into three categories. First you cannot be fired for a discriminatory reason – one based upon your race, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability. Second, it is unlawful for your employer to fire you because you reported or objected to perceived discrimination based upon one of the above protected characteristics. This is known as retaliation. Third, you cannot be fired because you reported some illegal practice or policy of the employer that is in violation of a law, rule or regulation (whistleblowers). While there are many state and federal laws which make employment discrimination illegal, the deck is most certainly stacked in favor of employers. Successfully bringing an employment discrimination, retaliation or whistleblower claim is extremely difficult. You need an experienced attorney to help you properly assert your rights – preferably BEFORE you are fired. The most successful cases we have brought have been for employees who had the foresight to seek our legal advice BEFORE they were fired (i.e. when the "writing on the wall" was clear). That is, when our client suspected that his/her head might be next on the chopping block; that their supervisor was gunning for them; or their employer was just looking for an excuse to fire them. In such situations we are often able to find ways to either help protect our clients against being fired or help them perfect legal rights which they might not have otherwise had after they are dismissed.

We are also often able to be of particular help to corporate executives and white collar employees who might have reason to suspect that they might be receiving a "pink slip" in their Christmas stocking. After being told they are being let go or subject to a reduction in force, often times these white colored employees simply update their resume, contact their favorite head hunter, and begin looking for a new position without every considering whether their dismissal might have been unlawful or that they have a legal claim. Again if we are contacted early enough, there are things we can help you do to protect yourself and possibly provide you with the leverage necessary to allow us to negotiate a much better severance package for you.

If I had to reduce employment law advice to a single tip it would be to "put your complaints in writing" to your supervisor and preferably to his/her supervisor or HR. That is, if you believe that you are being discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, national origin, age, or disability or that you are being sexually harassed or subject to a hostile work environment that is charged with inappropriate sexual comments or discriminatory comments, epithets, jokes or ridicule – complain about it in writing via email (at least). Also, if you have a job site safety concern, report it to your supervisor and/or to OSHA via their hotline or website. This can mean the difference between having a potential case and the leverage necessary to obtain a financial cushion while you look for a new job or having to go into debt or on public assistance.