There is no quick checklist for determining whether or not you have a valid claim for employment discrimination. What we can offer you is a quick “Top 5” list of workplace rights you may believe you have, but in fact legally DO NOT:
1. “The boss fired me for no reason!”
Florida is known as an “at-will employment” state. This means an employee can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all. Likewise, it also means the employee can quit with equal impunity. Was your boss in a bad mood and you were around him/her at the wrong time? Sorry, your boss has the right to fire you.
2. "I have the right to see my file!"
Public employees in Florida can review and copy their personnel records, but there are no laws for private sector workers. However, if you are in a union, your union contract may give you the right to review your file, have copies, or remove unfair information. Also, personnel files can almost always be reviewed during a grievance or discipline.
3. "I demand my break right now!"
Florida has no meal or break laws for people over 18 years of age and neither does Federal Law. However, Federal Law does provide some guidance as to whether or not an employee should be paid during these times. Short breaks are usually 20 minutes or less, and should be counted as hours worked. Genuine meal breaks are usually 30 minutes or more and do not need to be compensated as work time. Meal breaks are considered genuine and unpaid as long as the worker is completely relieved of his or her duties during the meal break. If the employee is required to do any duties (even something as minor as answering a phone), it can’t be considered a meal or lunch period and must be paid.
4. "I exercised my First Amendment rights."
Your First Amendment right to free speech is not absolute in the workplace. The Constitution allows private companies to regulate speech, and even to bar political discussion entirely. Public employees are more protected by free-speech rules, but even those are very limited. Otherwise, you CAN be fired in Florida for your speech (including political speech) in the workplace or outside the workplace. You CANNOT be fired for speaking on behalf of coworkers in order to improve work conditions, or for objecting to something illegal, but make sure you are protected BEFORE you speak out.
5. "I'm working in a hostile environment."
Your work environment may be unpleasant or even hostile, but only a hostile environment or harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, color, sickle cell trait, AIDS/HIV, or some other legally protected status is illegal. With 70 years of combined experience in trial practice and litigation for employment law in Florida, Lancaster and Eure has the knowledge and expertise necessary to help you prepare and win your employment law case. Contact Lancaster and Eure today to schedule your free consultation.