Employee Rights Law

Retaliation

Retaliation

Experienced discrimination attorneys for your employee rights case.

Florida uses an employment doctrine known as “at-will,” which generally grants employers the right to terminate employees at any time and for any reason (or no reason at all). However, both federal and state laws have provided key exceptions to the at-will policy in order to safeguard workers against retaliation for engaging in specific protected activities in good faith.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation is the most common issue alleged by federal employees and the most common discrimination finding in federal sector cases. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes a materially adverse action against an applicant, former employee, or current employee after they have asserted their rights as protected under Equal Employment Opportunity laws (e.g., Title VII, ADA, ADEA).

Retaliation

Are you being treated unfairly in the workplace?

Aside from prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information, EEO laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activity to challenge a perceived violation of any of those laws. This means that it is unlawful for an employer to punish an applicant or employee for the protected activity if the applicant or employee took measures in response to a perceived infringement of employee rights.

Protected activity includes:

  • Filing (or threatening to file) a complaint about alleged discrimination against oneself or others;
  • Providing information for an EEOC investigation;
  • Participating in an EEOC proceeding
  • Refusing to obey an order reasonably believed to be discriminatory or otherwise in violation of an EEO law;
  • Advising an employer of EEO compliance;
  • Resisting sexual advances or intervening to protect others;
  • Requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability or religion;
  • Talking to coworkers to gather evidence for a potential employee rights claim.

 

Actions taken by an employer against an employee must be “materially adverse” to qualify as retaliation. To be materially adverse, the action would discourage a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity. Examples of employer decisions that could qualify as retaliatory (if made in response to protected activity) include: denial of promotion, non-hire, denial of benefits, demotion, suspension, discharge, or other actions that could be considered discriminatory. Retaliation can be an employer action that is work-related, one that has no substantial effect on work, or even something that takes place exclusively outside of work, as long as it would deter a reasonable person from taking part in “protected activity” under an EEO law.

To secure the right of its citizens to be free from discrimination, the state of Florida enforces the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) as a state-specific equivalent to Title VII’s federal regulations. In addition, the Florida Commission on Human Rights (FCHR) functions much like the EEOC for the benefit of Florida citizens. If you believe you have been the target of retaliation in your workplace, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine what protections apply to you and if you have been illegally discriminated against.

If you believe you have been the victim of retaliation and would like to have a free consultation about your case, call Florin Roebig at (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page.

Workers' Compensation Retaliation

Are you being treated unfairly for a workers' comp claim?

Workers’ compensation laws are designed to settle financial differences and eliminate the need for litigation if a protected employee is injured or disabled on the job. Eligible employees file workers’ compensation claims in order to seek repayment for the medical expenses and lost wages that resulted from a qualifying workplace injury or condition.

Since the filing of a claim can increase an employer’s insurance premium, employees who initiate workers compensation claims are vulnerable to retaliation from employers. Facing an increase in insurance costs, some employers may be tempted to respond by punishing the employee in adverse ways that relate to employment. Examples of this include firing, demotion, lowered pay, or unwarranted disciplinary action. If an employer’s adverse action is motivated by an employee’s good faith action to seek workers’ compensation benefits or otherwise engage in protected activity, the employee may have a claim for workers’ compensation retaliation (depending on the specific laws of the state and the circumstances of the individual case). Most states have laws that prohibit employers from retaliating against workers that exercise their right to file a workers’ compensation claim, but there is some variation. In cases of retaliation associated with workers’ compensation, there is typically a state-specific time frame within which a claim must be filed. If you believe you have been the target of workers’ compensation retaliation, it is best to consult with an attorney within a reasonable time to determine what the time limit for your claim would be, what protections apply to you, and if you have been illegally discriminated against.

If you feel you have suffered retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, call Florin Roebig at (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page for a free consultation.

FMLA Retaliation

Are you being treated unfairly for taking time covered by the FMLA?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with a means to balance work with family and health-related responsibilities by allowing unpaid leave per year. FMLA also safeguards qualifying employees who return from a leave of absence by requiring that they are restored to their original or equivalent terms of employment, including pay and benefits.

As a federal program, FMLA applies to all public agencies, public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. Employees that are eligible for FMLA leave may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year for any of the following reasons:

  • The birth and care of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or
  • For any qualifying exigency that arises from a spouse, son, daughter, or parent being a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.

 

It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate or discriminate against an employee in response to a rightful exercise to take medical leave as granted by the FMLA. Retaliatory or discriminatory action as barred by EEO laws could mean interfering with, restricting, or denying an employee’s FMLA leave taken in good faith. In addition, firing or harassing an employee after they have just returned from FMLA leave could also qualify for retaliation, depending on state law and the individual case.

An employer’s attempt to interfere with an employee’s rightful FMLA leave, or acting adversely towards the employee (firing, harassment) for taking the FMLA leave in good faith could be considered retaliation, depending on state laws and the individual case.

If you believe you have been the target of FMLA-related retaliation, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine what the time limit for your claim would be, what protections apply to you, and if you have been illegally discriminated against.

Call Florin Roebig at (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page for a free consultation.

Whistleblower Protection

Are you being treated unfairly and being targeted as a "whistleblower"?

Both federal and state employment laws have been designed to safeguard Florida workers against retaliation for engaging in specific activities that are protected, as long as they are conducted in good faith. One such activity that triggers legal protection for employees involves reporting an employer’s violation of a law or regulation (for more examples of protected activity sheltering employees from discrimination, see above).

This anti-retaliation “whistleblower” protection functions to enable employees to oppose and expose illegal or unethical acts committed by an employer without fear of being targeted for doing so. Florida has passed two main statutes to keep whistleblower employees safe from retaliation: The Florida Whistleblower’s Act (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.3187) protects public employees, while employees in the private sector are protected by the Florida Private Sector Whistleblower Act (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 448.102).

Both of Florida’s whistleblower statutes explicitly prohibit adverse action in retaliation against employees that disclose information relating to employer misconduct, but their protections are not identical and applications will vary depending on the facts of any particular case. Further, cases involving whistleblower retaliation typically involve a time frame within which a claim must be filed, depending on the nature of the case and circumstances of employment.

If you believe you have been the victim of whistleblower retaliation, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine what the time limit for your claim would be, what protections apply to you, and if you have been illegally discriminated against.

Call Florin Roebig to receive a free consultation for your case at (727) 786- 5000 or visit our contact page.

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