i was fired from my job as a customer service rep at a large video rental store back in december. i was taken into the back room and threatened with jail time unless i signed a paper saying i stole some energy bars. i signed it because i was scared, and i was afraid they would try to pin the thousands of dollars worth of gaming equipment that was stolen on me also( i'm convinced they just needed a scapegoat ). i filed for unemployment and was determined eligible after a telephone hearing. so i want to know if i can sue them for wrongful termination or defamation of character. it's been very hard to find a job because i feel i either have to explain what happen when i was fired or omit those two years worth of work history on employment applications. thanks
Florida is an at-will state, which means an employer may fire, demote, hire, promote and discipline employees for pretty much any reason, or no reason at all. The only way to change that is to urge your state legislators to pass more protections for employees.
That doesn’t mean there are no protections for employees. You should ask yourself the following questions to see if you might be covered under some employment law:
Did my supervisors make any comments indicating bias? If your supervisor made racist or sexist jokes, said they thought you were too old or your disability made you unable to do the job, required you to work on religious holidays, or made other comments that would indicate a bias, you may have direct evidence of discrimination.
Was I treated differently than others in the same situation? If you don’t have direct evidence of discrimination, you may be able demonstrate you were treated differently than those of a different race, sex, religion, national origin, age, or other protected status under the same circumstances. Try to think of people who are of a different race/age/sex, etc. and were treated differently from you. Find out if there are people who have also been the victims of similar discrimination.
Why was I really fired? Most employees have a pretty good idea why they were fired. If you made a worker’s compensation claim and were fired a week later, that’s a good indication you were fired in retaliation for making the claim. If you reported your supervisor for Medicare fraud, and then the supervisor fires you, you may have a whistleblower claim.
Is my employer saying something false about me? If potential employers tell you are going to be hired if your references check out, and then the job is mysteriously filled when you call back, your employer may be giving false or damaging information about you. There are professional reference-checking companies who will call for you and see what an employer is saying about you. If you can prove it’s false, you may be able to sue for defamation.
Am I in some protected category? If you were fired after you took some protected action, you may be able to sue for retaliation. Think about whether you recently made a worker’s compensation claim, performed jury duty, served in the military, took family/medical leave, served as a witness in a lawsuit, provided testimony or evidence to EEOC, refused to participate in illegal activity, reported illegal activity, or engaged in protected free speech.
If you believe something illegal has happened, contact an attorney to discuss the possibility that you may have a case.
What if I don’t think something illegal happened? Even if nothing illegal happened, many employers will discuss a severance agreement with an employment attorney hired to negotiate with them. As an attorney who has been practicing since 1986 in employment law, I find that sometimes an amicable transition is the best way for both employer and employee to move on in a positive direction. If you are offered a severance package, it is best to have an attorney review it prior to signing. Many employment attorneys will work to negotiate a better package for you.
The best course of action when terminated, particularly where you believe there was no just cause, is to contact an attorney who handles employment law to discuss your options.
I hope this helps!
Employment / Labor Attorney
You may have a claim for false imprisonment - but the important issue is how to prove it. Were there any witnesses? What did they say the unemployment compensation Agency? You need to have a consultation with an attorney.
Law Office of Bonita M. Riggens
669 1st Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
Without a union or employment contract an employee at will may be fired for no cause at all.
Discrimination based on gender, age, religious beliefs, race etc... may lead to a different answer.
God bless you. I am licensed in Chicago.
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