“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” – Thomas Jefferson
If you have been fired or demoted because you were injured on the job, filed for Workers’ Compensation, or complained of sexual harassment (just to name a few unlawful reasons), you may be able to take legal action against your former employer.
If you are currently working in a “hostile environment” (experiencing hostility, harassment or unfavorable treatment due to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, color, sickle cell trait, AIDs/HIV, or some other legally protected status), you may have an employment discrimination case. Finally, if you are disabled, or perceived as disabled, and your employer, or a prospective employer, discriminates against you because of disability, or refuses to make reasonable accommodations for your disability, you may have a cause for action.
To understand your legal rights in the workplace and determine if you should take legal action against an employer, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney. At Lancaster & Eure, we have the experience to help you fully understand your legal rights and successfully pursue your employment law case in Florida.
We strive to give each client the information, guidance and representation necessary to achieve optimal results. We will help you understand your eligibility for compensation under the law, as well as what to expect once you initiate a civil suit. We will prepare your case carefully and thoroughly, guide you expertly through the litigation process, and fight aggressively for the maximum compensation to which you are entitled. We only represent employees, not employers, and do so on a contingency basis, meaning there is no fee or cost to you up front for our expert legal representation.
Contact the experienced, knowledgeable employment law attorneys at Lancaster & Eure to schedule a free consultation. With 70 years of combined experience in trial practice and litigation, Lancaster & Eure attorneys have the knowledge and expertise in employment law in Florida to help you prepare and win your case.
Understanding your legal rights in the workplace and when fired is helpful when deciding what course of action to pursue. The following information is provided to help you become more knowledgeable in this area.
Employees’ Legal Rights in the Workplace
There is no quick checklist of your legal rights in the workplace. However, if you are working in a “hostile environment” (experiencing hostility and/or harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, color, sickle cell trait, AIDs/HIV, or some other legally protected status), you may have an employment discrimination case and should consult with an experienced employment law attorney.
In other cases, understanding these four common misconceptions about your rights in the workplace can help you decide your best course of action:
1. “The boss fired me for no reason!”
Florida is known as an “at-will employment” state. This means that an employee can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all. Likewise, an employee can quit with equal impunity. Was your boss in a bad mood and you were around him/her at the wrong time? This situation usually does not constitute a violation of employment laws.
2. “I have the right to see my file!”
Public employees in Florida have the right to review and copy their personnel records, but there are no such laws for private sector workers. However, if you are in a union, your union contract may give you additional rights to review your file, have copies, or remove unfair information. Also, personnel files can almost always be reviewed during a grievance or disciplinary action.
3. “I demand my break right now!”
Florida has no meal or break laws for people over eighteen 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 twenty minutes or less, and should be counted as hours worked. Genuine meal breaks are usually thirty minutes or more, and do not need to be compensated as work time. Meal breaks are considered genuine and unpaid, as long as you are completely relieved of your duties during the meal break. If you are required to perform any duties (even something as minor as answering a phone), the break cannot be considered a meal or lunch period, and you must be paid for the time.
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 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 you should make sure you are protected BEFORE you speak out.
If you have questions about your rights in your Florida workplace, or think your rights have been violated in your place of employment, contact the experienced Employment Law attorneys at Lancaster & Eure today, to schedule your free consultation.
Rights of an Employee Who Is Fired
With the state of the economy, many employers are finding themselves unable to support a large staff, which can lead to lay-offs. Does that mean you have grounds to take your employer to court? Here is a quick breakdown of your legal rights:
If you are laid off or fired, you are still entitled to:
- receive money you have already earned (this can include sick leave or vacation time),
- continue your health insurance coverage,
- receive any severance pay you were promised, and
- collect unemployment benefits, if you qualify.
If you have worked for companies with twenty or more employees, you are most likely familiar with the term “COBRA.” COBRA is an acronym for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, a federal law which stipulates that employers with twenty or more employees must offer the option of continuing coverage with the company’s group health insurance plan for a specific amount of time (usually eighteen months) after the employment relationship ends, for the former employee and their spouses or dependent children. The catch is the worker must pay the full premium cost for the continued coverage.
Most employers are not required by federal law to pay severance; however, your employer may be legally required to pay you severance if they promised to do so in either a written contract, or an employee handbook/manual, or if they have a history of paying severance to other employees in the same position. Another thing to consider, if faced with being laid off or let go, is severance pay is not always limited to money; it can include other benefits, such as insurance or unemployment compensation.
If you lose your job, you may also be eligible to receive some temporary or permanent financial support with the help of unemployment insurance benefits. These benefits are typically less than your former pay, and usually last less than a year, but every penny counts when you have lost your job, and you may need to consider this as an option.
Finally, if you were fired because you were injured on the job, filed for Workers’ Compensation, or complained of sexual harassment (just to name a few unlawful reasons), you may be able to take legal action against your former employer. For an understanding of other instances in which you would want to take legal action against an employer for wrongfully firing you, as well as the best possible course of action to take given your case, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney.
To become fully knowledgeable about your eligibility for compensation, and what to expect once you initiate a civil suit, contact the experienced Employment Law attorneys at Lancaster & Eure to schedule a free consultation. We are here to help. Please call (941) 365-7575 to speak with an attorney today.