I Was Fired By My Government Employer – What Can I Do?

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Many people know that Florida, like most states, is an “at will” state, which means that, unless you have a contract for a definite term of employment or which limits reasons for termination (such as “good cause”), your employment is terminable at will by your employer. That means you may be subjected to an “adverse action” (such as demotion or termination) for any reason, good or bad, fair or unfair.

The only exceptions to being an “at will” employee is if you are under an employment contract, union agreement, or can prove that the employer’s stated reason for the adverse action is not only false, but that the real reason is based on one the very few exceptions to being an “at will” employee. These include being subjected to adverse action based on your race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability/handicap (actual or perceived), marital status, or in retaliation for complaining of or opposing discrimination.

In addition to being an “at will” employment state, Florida is also a “right to work” state and these terms are often mistakenly interchanged as they mean entirely different things.  The “right to work” is rooted in Article I, §6 of the Florida Constitution, which states,

“The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or non-membership in any labor union or lab organization. The right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged. Public employees shall not have the right to strike.”

Essentially, this means that, in Florida, an employee may not be denied a job based on union membership. An employee can choose to be a part of a union or not be part of a union—either way, his or her job status cannot be determined by union status. Under Florida law, specifically, under section 447.301, Florida Statutes, an employee has the right to:

  1. to form, join, and participate in, or to refrain from forming, joining, or participating in, any employee organization of their own choosing;
  2. to be represented by an employment organization in collective bargaining or negotiations; and
  3. to engage, or refrain from engaging in concerted activities not prohibited by law, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.

In addition, public employees in the State of Florida (i.e. persons employed by the Federal, State, or local government, such as a County or City) have additional rights. Public employees include not only traditional government employees, but also: state university employees, teachers, law enforcement and correctional officers, firefighters, transportation employees, such as bus drivers, parks’ employees, and waste disposal workers. Public employees have rights not afforded to private sector employees, such as due process under the Constitution, which generally means a right to challenge a termination through a pre or post termination process.

Public employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement possess further rights that have been collectively bargained for as identified in their contract. If you are a union member, know your rights under your contract.

If you would like to know more about your rights in your particular circumstance, whether you are a private or public sector employee, please contact us today at (407) 803-5400 for an analysis of your situation and to schedule a consultation, if you so desire.