As a small business owner, there will come a time when you have an employee that for whatever reason, is not working out.  Since Florida is an “at-will” state, the employer and employee may part ways for any reasons with or without cause. There are situations, however, where firing an employee is not always cut and dry. Read on to learn how to legally fire someone the state of Florida.

What Does “At-Will” Mean?

Firstly, “at-will” refers to the will of the employer. In other words, the employee works at the will of the employer. This means that an employer may legally fire someone for almost any reason, with or without notice. For example, this makes layoffs possible, where an employee has done nothing wrong, but the business is making an economic decision.

There is Nothing to Stop an Employer For Firing an Employee Under Florida Law?

However, as with most laws, there are certain built in exceptions. These exceptions in the law help protect the employee.

What Are the Reasons That Would Constitute an Illegal Firing?

The following are illegal terminations under Florida law:

  • Termination based on discrimination
  • Termination based on retaliation
  • Violation of an employment contract
  • Termination in large-scale layoffs

Termination Based on Discrimination

For a termination to be considered illegal under discrimination laws, the termination had to be based on one of the following:

  • Race or Nationality of the employee
  • Color of the employees’ skin
  • Religious observance of the employee, such as religious holiday breaks and/or religious garb.
  • Sex of the employee
  • Gender of the employee
  • Marital status of the employee
  • Pregnancy of the employee
  • The sexual orientation of the employee
  • Age of the employee, for example, if someone is an older adult.
  • Employee testing positive for HIV/AIDS
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Genetic disorders

Termination Based on Retaliation

Under the law, employees have certain rights.  A termination is considered illegal under retaliation if the termination was in response to an employee exercising one of the following rights:

  • Making a harassment or discrimination complaint or participating in an investigation of a complaint of discrimination or harassment
  • Requesting reasonable accommodations for religious observance or a physical disability
  • Taking a leave of absence allowed under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Complaining about unfair labor or participating in a labor union.
  • Reporting unsafe working conditions
  • Reporting an employer for violating legal obligations
  • Assisting investigators in uncovering the employer’s violation of legal obligations
  • Claiming workers’ compensation insurance

Termination in Violation of an Employment Contract

An employee is not an “at-will” employee if there is an employment contract. In this case, any termination must follow the terms of the contract. Failure to terminate an employee as outlined in the contract would constitute an illegal termination.

Termination in Large-Scale Layoffs

If a business plans to layoff more than fifty employees at a single location or 1/3 of its total full-time workforce, then under the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, the employer must give sixty-days notice, otherwise it is considered illegal.

What Happens After I Terminate an Employee?

Under Florida law, once a company terminates an employee, the employer has the following obligations to the employee:

  • Must pay remaining wages by the next regular payday.
  • Might have to allow the employee to maintain group health coverage for an additional eighteen months under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

In Conclusion

If you need to terminate an employee and you want to make sure you are within the law of doing so, contact Dowd Law and our expert attorneys will consult and advise you on how to legally fire someone in the state of Florida.