I was looking for a new job and my employer found out about it brought me into a public forum in the kitchen bringing every employee in to the fray about 25 to 30 employees clapping her hands she being the owner of a to restaurant operation clapping her h

This is a fine dining restaurant in Clearwater Beach Florida that was opened in 1948 owned by a family they think they're very powerful and which they are and they treat employees like hell saying the F word and many other derogatory names towards their employees saying if they don't like it they can sue them but stand in line cuz she has a great attorney and she says and she can get out of anything she found out that I was looking for another job because I'm tired of her ass with that she's given all the employees there in fact there's 13 employees they are leaving this year because of her harassment but anyway she found out that I was looking for another job and she called everybody in to the restaurant started clapping her hands and say hey Terry found a new job congratulate him now get out of my house you're fired and I will do everything I can to get you fired from your job how can I do something about this

1 answer  |  asked Feb 6, 2016 9:27 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (1)

Phyllis Towzey
Several issues here.

First, as to the verbally abusive work environment, there's nothing you can do legally unless (a) you are physically threatened, or (b) they are singling people out for abuse based on gender, race, age over 40, disability, or religion. For example, if you are female and you are being called sexist or sexual names and insults, then you could have a claim for sexual harassment or sex discrimination, or hostile work environment. Same thing if you are being singled out due to your ethnicity, etc. But if it's just overall nastiness, then that what we refer to as "an equal opportunity offender" and the courts do not step in to ensure civility in the workplace.

Second, as to your termination, it is not illegal for her to fire you because the found out you were looking for another job. Florida is an "employment at will" state, and you can be fired for no reason or any reason at all, so long as it isn't based on your membership in a "protected class" (sex, race, etc.).

Third, although firing you in front of other employees was rude and uncalled for, it's not illegal.

Fourth, she has already made a statement indicating she has malice toward you. If she maliciously makes false factual statements about you to your new employer, you can sue for defamation and possibly tortious interference with a business relationship. But it has to be a false factual statement, not just her expressing her opinion. For example, telling someone she fired you for theft would be a lie, and you would have a claim against her and/or her business. Telling someone that, in her opinion, you were a lousy employee is her opinion, not a fact, and would not be defamation. You could hire an attorney to send a letter to her advising her that if she interferes with your new position or makes false statements about you, legal action will be taken. But from what you have told us above, it doesn't seem like she is bothered by threats of legal action.

One final thought. Restaurants are notorious violators of the wage and hour laws, and such violations result in unpaid wages and overtime due to the employee, and potential penalties to the business from the Department of Labor. Violations include improper tip pools, failure to pay overtime, making people do side jobs off the clock, not properly handling the tip credit. If you think there may be issues with how you were paid, seek legal advice. I do not provide free consultations, but if you email me I can tell you the names of some law firms who do, if you want to explore the wage and hour issue.

Sorry that all of this happened to you - I hope your next job is a healthier work environment.

posted by Phyllis Towzey  |  Feb 7, 2016 11:02 AM [EST]

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