As an employer, there are certain steps you should take to ensure that you legally terminate an employee to reduce the chances of a lawsuit arising for wrongful termination. Read on to learn more.
Legal Grounds for Employment Termination in Florida
Florida is an employment at-will jurisdiction. This means that an employer can terminate their employee with or without cause under any circumstances, except for the following reasons:
- Discrimination – Federal and Florida State laws prohibit employers from firing employees based on race, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or age.
- Whistleblower – Employees cannot be fired for disclosing their employer’s unlawful activities such as health and safety violations to government agencies. This also includes practices of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
- Wage and Hour Liability – An employee cannot be fired for disclosing their employer’s unlawful wage and hour practices to federal or state agencies.
- Exercising Legal Right– An employee cannot be fired for exercising their legal rights such as for taking family or medical leave, military leave, time off to vote, or to serve on jury duty.
Note, the employment at-will status changes if there is an employment contract between the employer and employee that provides specific provisions for termination, or it may also be altered by a labor union contract if applicable.
If you plan to layoff more than 50 employees, under the federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, you must give your employees at least 60 days of advance written notice before terminating them. Further, if you terminate your employees due to a lack of work, or reduce their hours, they have the right to file for unemployment under Florida state law.
How to Legally Fire an Employee in Florida
Before you fire an employee, you should document your efforts regarding the following:
- Document problems with the employee including any performance improvement plans.
- Review the policies listed in the employee handbook regarding acceptable and unacceptable employee behavior. Provide the employee with references to sections in which he/she is not meeting mandated provisions.
- Provide the employee with verbal and written warnings regarding performance prior to termination.
Make sure you take the time to thoroughly review the employee’s records in order to reduce the chance of later being subjected to a lawsuit based on a claim for wrongful termination. You should consider consulting with a human resource attorney prior to terminating the employee.
Prepare Termination Meeting
You should prepare a termination meeting when firing an employee. At the meeting, make sure you address the following:
- Inform the employee about their health care rights and coverage upon termination.
- State the grounds for termination.
- Request for the employee to sign a release from liability waiver.
Under most circumstances, it is best to escort the employee immediately off the premises (after going to their desk to collect any personal items) upon terminating their position. This will help avoid the situation of an employee stealing company files or trashing computer data without your knowledge.