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Our law firm is committed to protecting the rights of employees

While Florida is an employment at will jurisdiction, there are many state and federal laws designed to ensure that employees are treated fairly. Our law firm is available to help employees receive the full benefit of those laws, whether through early intervention with a noncompliant employer or through litigation.

Set forth below are some of the employment issues about which our firm can advise employees:

Wrongful Termination

As stated above, Florida follows the employment at will doctrine. Under this doctrine, a private employer may terminate an employee with or without cause. (Different rules apply for employees of public employers as well as employees with employment contracts.) While this leaves employers with great latitude in their hiring and firing decisions, employers are not permitted to terminate an employee for exercising certain rights, such as filing a workers compensation claim or complaining about an unlawful practice in the work place. See Fla. Stat. 440.205; Smith v. Piezo Technology and Professional Administrators, 427 So.2d 182 (Fla. 1983).

If you have been terminated for exercising a protected right, and wish to pursue action against your employer, our firm may be able to assist you.

Discrimination

Florida and federal law prohibit employers from terminating an employee (or taking other adverse employment actions against an employee) because of an employee’s race, religion, gender, disability, ethnicity, age, and certain other protected characteristics. See Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, as amended, Fla. Stat. 760.01 et seq. (2001); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000(e) et seq.; 42 U.S.C. 1981; Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. 623; The Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12111.

Those laws also prohibit employers from terminating an employee (or taking other adverse employment actions against an employee) who objects to such discrimination or who participates in a complaint process regarding such discrimination. See e.g., 42 U.S.C. 2000e-3(a); Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 126 S.Ct. 2405, 2412-13 (2006); Wideman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 141 F.3d 1453, 1456 (11th Cir. 1998).

If you have been terminated, suspended, demoted, disciplined, or have had other adverse action taken against you by an employer for such reasons, our firm may be able to assist you.

EEOC/FHRC Representation

As you may be aware, employees who wish to enforce their rights under most of the above discrimination statutes must first go through an administrative process before proceeding to the courts. The agencies charged with enforcing these statutes are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Florida Human Relations Commission (FHRC).

Our firm can assist employees in administrative proceedings before the EEOC/FHRC, from the initial filing of a charge, through the agency’s investigation, mediation (if elected), and final hearing.

Note: As with any type of claim, there are deadlines that must be met in order for the agency (and the court) to hear the claim. It is important that you take appropriate steps to preserve your claim before those deadlines pass.

Severance Agreements

Sometimes when an employer and employee agree to terminate their relationship, an employer will offer the employee a severance agreement or severance package. A severance agreement is a contract in which an employer offers an employee a certain level of compensation and/or benefits (to continue beyond termination) in exchange for the employee’s release of certain claims against the employer.

Given the consequences of such agreements (i.e., release of certain claims) it is important that employees or contractors entering into such agreements are comfortable with the terms identified therein. Our firm can review a proposed severance agreement and/or negotiate on the employee’s behalf for better terms.

Covenants Not to Compete

For some time, Florida has recognized the right of employers to take active steps to protect their business interests, including the right to insist that employees sign covenants not to compete. The law of Florida governing these agreements has undergone three significant changes in the last 20 years.

  • 1953- 1990. In 1953, the Florida legislature passed Fla. Stat. 542.12. This statute allowed non compete agreements to stand so long as the time period and geographic component of the restriction were reasonable. This statute remained the law until 1990, when Fla. Stat. 542.12 was amended.
  • June 28, 1990 – 1996. The 1990 amendments effected several changes to the law of non compete agreements in Florida. See 542.335 (1990). First, the 1990 amendments eliminated a presumption that existed under the 1953 statute, that a breach of such an agreement would cause irreparable injury to an employer. The 1990 amendments provided that such a presumption only could be established in the following circumstances: (1) the use of trade secrets; (2) the use of customer lists; and (3) direct solicitation of existing customers.
  • July 1, 1996 to present. In 1996, the Florida legislature made additional changes to the law of non competes. See Fla. Stat. 542.335. Under the current law, a non compete agreement can only be enforced where an employer can show: (1) the existence of a legitimate business interest, and (2) that the restraint contained in the agreement is “reasonably necessary”. See Fla. Stat. 542.335(1)(b), 542.335(1)(c)-(d).

There has been a significant amount of litigation over the components of this test. Not surprisingly, these agreements are very heavily litigated in the state courts.

If you have been given a non compete agreement to sign, our firm can assist you in reviewing it under the current law. There are certain restrictions that Florida courts have held invalid under the statute. Further, if you have signed a non compete agreement and would like some advice on what options you may have in future employment endeavors, our firm can also assist you.

Note: Florida courts look at the law in effect at the time the non compete agreement was signed in construing such agreements.

Family and Medical Leave Act Rights

The Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. (FMLA), provides certain rights to employees who are suffering from a serious health condition, and to employees whose spouse, parent or child is suffering from a serious health condition. FMLA prohibits employers from terminating or retaliating against an employee for exercising his or her rights under FMLA.

Our firm can assist you in (1) determining whether you are eligible for FMLA leave; (2) assisting you in securing such leave from your employer; and (3) representing you in the event you are terminated or retaliated against for exercising your rights under FMLA.

Additional Areas of Representation

  • Review of Employment Contracts
  • Drug Testing Rights
  • Employee Benefit Claims (under ERISA and COBRA)
  • Whistleblower Suits
  • Physicians/Privileges

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