Florida wrongful discharge law

posted by Donna Ballman  |  Aug 10, 2009 5:37 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Florida law does not recognize a “wrongful termination” or "wrongful discharge" claim, at least by that name.  Florida is an at-will state, which means that an employer may fire, demote, hire, promote and discipline employees for any reason, or no reason at all, unless it is an unlawful reason. 

However, certain terminations are "wrongful" in the sense that they violate the Florida employees' rights. This means that the employee has a claim to file in court to seek a remedy for the harm done by the wrongful discharge.  Wrongful, or unlawful reasons for discharge a Florida employee include discrimination based on race, gender, disability or other protected class status, discriminatory harassment, illegal retaliation and a termination for missing work as a result of a family and medical leave absence. 

Ten types of Florida Wrongful Discharges


Terminations due to race, age, sex, pregnancy, national origin, marital status, color, religion, or disability is illegal in Florida.  Employees are protected from this type of termination if their employer has 15 or more employees (and in some counties, 5 or more employees).

Discrimination victims must show that they were treated differently than those of a different race, sex, religion, national origin, age, or other protected status, under the same circumstances. 

Retaliation for Reporting or Opposing discrimination 

Victims of sexual harassment, discriminatory discharge or discipline or other forms of unlawful harassment may oppose it and complain about it to their employer. Once they do, their employer cannot fire them or take other adverse action against them in retaliation.


Employees who work for employers with 10 or more employees can object to or refuse to participate in discrimination, harassment, or illegal activity. If their employer discriminates against or discharges employees for engaging in such activity, the employee may be a protected whistleblower.

Worker’s compensation retaliation.

An employer may not terminate an employee for you for making such a claim. Florida Workers' Compensation Act Section 440.205 states that "[n]o employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee's valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers' Compensation Law."

FMLA Leave

An employer covered by the FMLA may not terminate an eligible employee for taking leave due to sickness, disability or serious health condition of a the employee or a family member:  Employees are eligible of they worked at least 12 months (which can be non-consecutive) and 1,250 hours in the last 12 months and the employer has 50 or more employees at the employee's worksite.

Claiming unpaid overtime or wages

An employer cannot terminated an employee who objects to not being paid wages or overtime.

Court testimony

An employer may not terminate an employee for testifying against the employer or in any court case where the employee is subpoenaed.


Pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination. An employer cannot terminate an employee who is pregnant or because the employer fears that the employee will not return to work or work as hard following the pregnancy.

Breach of contract

If an employment agreement is for a specific term or period of time or permits the employer to terminate the employment only for just cause, an employee can sue for breach of contract and lost wages if the employer terminates the employment before the agreement allows. In that case, the employer may be liable to the employee for balance of the employee's salary and other compensation.

This article was posted by Donna M. Ballman, P.A., 4801 S. University Dr., Ste. 3010, Ft. Lauderdale, FL  33328;  Licensed to practice in Florida.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship.

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posted by Donna Ballman  |  Aug 10, 2009 5:37 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

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