When Is a Layoff Considered Wrongful Termination?

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It is not uncommon for Florida employers to lay off workers in a tough economic  environment. Under state laws that follow the “employment at will” doctrine, employers may hire, promote, discipline, and fire employees for virtually any reason or no reason at all. However, your firing could be Wrongful Termination in certain circumstances.

Parrish & Goodman, Attorneys at Law, has Florida Employment Law Attorneys who can help you determine if you were wrongfully terminated and explain your legal options. One of the common questions we’re asked is, “When is a layoff considered wrongful termination?”

The “At-Will” Doctrine and Florida Employment Contracts

A Florida employer has every right to cut jobs over financial struggles or other reasons. However, if the layoff was improperly handled, it could violate wrongful termination statutes. One major issue with layoffs concerns “contract” workers and “at-will” workers.

Contract workers have a binding legal contract that spells out the conditions under which they are hired, work, and can be terminated. Any layoff or termination that violates this contract is wrongful termination. At-will workers have no such guaranteed contract and can be hired or laid off “at will,” as the company deems necessary.

Discrimination and Wrongful Termination

Layoffs that are discriminatory are also considered wrongful termination. For example, older workers earning higher wages could be targeted for a layoff and replaced with younger workers who earn less. This is age discrimination and violates the law. Similar actions could target women or persons of color, or disabled workers.

State and federal labor laws prohibit discrimination against protected classes of people, including:

  • Age
  • Race or color
  • Disability or a perceived disability
  • Genetic Information
  • Marital Status
  • Military Service
  • National Origin or Citizenship
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Sex or Gender
  • Sexual Orientation

If you believe you were targeted for a layoff because of one of these characteristics, contact Parrish & Goodman immediately to discuss your options.

Layoffs and Retaliation

Job terminations, including layoffs, are illegal if they are retaliatory. This means your employer targeted you for termination to “get back” at you or punish you over some real or perceived issue. An example would be filing a Workers’ Compensation claim for a work-related injury and getting laid off soon after. Another example would be filing a whistleblower claim about illegal activities at work and being laid off shortly after your claim becomes known.

Several laws prohibit retaliatory acts in the workplace, including:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 
  • Family and Medical Leave Act a/k/a FMLA 
  • Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) 
  • Florida Private and Public Whistleblower Acts 
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
  • National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
  • Workers’ Compensation Law

A Florida Wrongful Termination Lawyer can help you determine if your layoff violated any of the above acts and if your rights have been violated.

Federal WARN Act Layoff Violations

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to give their employees advance notice when conducting large-scale layoffs or plant closings. Most employers are required to provide a notification 60 calendar days in advance of the termination. The act does not prohibit layoffs; it only requires advance notification and prescribes financial penalties for violators.

If your employer violated the terms of the WARN Act in a recent layoff, they may have to pay stiff fines and reimburse you for all the days of notice you did not receive. Your Employment Law Attorney can explain more.

Wrongful Termination Is Illegal in Florida

Although Florida is an at-will state, wrongful termination is illegal. If you believe your recent job layoff could have been a wrongful termination, contact Parrish & Goodman, Attorneys at Law, with a Florida statewide practice having physical offices in St. Petersburg, Naples and Fort Myers, to schedule a consultation. We can help you protect your rights and possibly even pursue compensation from your employer.

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