Responding to Wrongful Termination Claims in Florida: Legal Strategies for EmployersAug 16, 2023
In the complex and ever-evolving world of employment law, wrongful termination claims remain a significant concern for employers in Florida. These claims can lead to costly legal battles, increased turnover, reputational damage and operational disruption to the company, which are detrimental to any business.
Employers must develop effective strategies to handle workplace issues in order to successfully navigate the legal risks of terminating employees and avoiding wrongful termination claims. The Wannos Law Firm provides crucial approaches to help Florida companies protect their interests and promote a fair and legally compliant workplace environment.
Create a Comprehensive and Detailed Employee Handbook
The first key strategy employers should consider is creating a comprehensive and robust employee handbook and workplace policies. A company who has detailed rules and regulations in place will provide clarity on its expectations for employees and supervisors and help to ensure consistent application of the law and policies.
Additionally, these guidelines can help remove any ambiguity regarding decision-making related to disciplinary actions or terminations. Outlining expectations around attendance, performance, and behavior in writing will help make sure all parties are on the same page, will help prevent wrongful termination claim and assist in the company’s defense of a lawsuit that may be filed.
Communication Regarding Workplace Standards and Opportunities for Improvement
If an employee is facing possible termination for failure to comply with workplace rules or standards, it is important to communicate with the employee to advise he/she is not meeting expectations prior to the termination meeting. Most employees decide to sue employers because they do not know why they were terminated, or think the termination decision was unfair. If employees are provided with reasonable notice of the work expectation, and notice of their deficiency in meeting work expectations with an opportunity to improve, this will greatly reduce the potential for the employee to claim he/she was unaware of the reason for termination.
Written Warnings and Documentation
Third, employers should take steps to document their actions concerning any performance issues and termination decisions. Keeping a proper documentation with accurate and thorough records will help document the employer’s legitimate non-discriminatory or non-retaliatory reason for the employment decision, and oppose any claim that the termination was unwarranted or illegal. This includes preserving emails, memos, notes from meetings or disciplinary meetings, and any other communications between the employer and employee.
Stay Updated on Relevant Employment Law Regulations
Employers should be mindful of the federal and state applicable laws when making decisions regarding not only terminations, but hiring, promotions, changes in job shifts, pay, etc. Since the employment laws constantly change, and are different across various states and industries, it's important to be up-to-date on the relevant statutes and regulations that may impact termination decisions. Employers should also consider seeking legal advice if they are uncertain about any laws or regulations and if they want to discuss a legal risk analysis of taking certain actions with their employees.
State and federal laws govern the wrongful termination (or discrimination, harassment and retaliation) laws for Florida businesses. One important aspect of Florida law is the presumption of "at-will" employment, which means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason that is not illegal or discriminatory.
However, an employer cannot terminate an employee violating specific legal protections. For instance, an employer cannot terminate an employee due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, as these are protected categories under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents discrimination and retaliation of employees with disabilities and those requesting a reasonable accommodation of the workplace policies in order to perform the essential functions of the job. The Florida Whistleblower Act protects employees from retaliation if they report employer violations of law, regulation, or ordinance. Employers are also forbidden from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers’ compensation laws, and other similar laws.
Violations of these laws may give rise to a claim of wrongful termination, discrimination or retaliation under the applicable state or federal statutes.
Handle Wrongful Termination Claims with Peace of Mind
Taking proactive measures will not only help employers comply with the law, but also help defend itself against claims and lawsuits filed by its employees for wrongdoing. Florida businesses should reach out to employment law counsel to discuss best practices for protection of the Florida company. Should an employee claim violation of the law, request a severance package, or file a lawsuit against your company, The Wannos Law Firm provides valuable guidance and legal advice tailored to your unique circumstances.
Leveraging our expertise in mediation and dispute resolution, employment law litigation and consulting, we help ensure that your business interests are effectively represented and protected. Don't let wrongful termination claims disrupt your business operations and reputation.
For more information on best practices for proper termination of poorly performing at will employees, download our free resource: The Employer’s Termination Checklist: How to Terminate At Will Employees and Avoid Retaliation Claims.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. Consult with an employment lawyer in your state before making any important business decisions.
The Wannos Law Firm, P.A. provides legal advice to Florida businesses. Karly Wannos is a workplace investigator for claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, Florida employment law mediator and provides training to businesses on employment laws.
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