Florida At-Will Employment — Knowing Your Rights

notebook with "you are fired" written on a sticky note

Florida is what’s known as an “at-will” employment state. But what is at-will employment? At its simplest, it means either an employee or the employer can end an employment arrangement without cause and without notice. In other words, you can quit a job or be fired from a job for any reason, as long as it does not run afoul of discrimination laws and certain other legal requirements. In most cases, your employer can eliminate or change your job, transfer or demote you, or cut your hours without stating a reason.

At-will employment is the law of the land throughout much of the United States. Even though Florida is an at-will employment state, an employee may be protected against firing without cause by an employment contract or union agreement or if they work for the government.

If you think your employer fired you for an improper reason, you may have a legal claim against them. A Tallahassee wrongful termination attorney with Cruz Law Firm, P.A., can help you determine whether you have a legitimate complaint against your employer and can pursue compensation for you if you do. Our employment discrimination attorneys have nearly two decades of experience in the field and have taken more than 100 cases to trial in Florida’s federal and state courts.

Contact Cruz Law for an initial claim review with a Tallahassee wrongful termination attorney. Consultations are free, confidential, and without obligation.

What Are Your Rights Under At-Will Employment?

At-will employment laws do not supersede federal or state discrimination laws. It is illegal in Florida to fire, refuse to hire, or harass an employee or job applicant on the basis of their:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Marital status
  • Medical condition
  • Sexual orientation

An individual who has faced discrimination in the workplace may file a discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR). If either of these organizations’ responses are not satisfactory, the employee or job applicant may pursue a lawsuit that seeks compensation and other relief.

It is also illegal to fire an employee who:

It is illegal to fire an employee as retaliation for:

  • Whistleblowing,” i.e., reporting an employer’s fraud, waste, abuse, corruption, wrongdoing, illegal or unethical activity, or endangering people’s health and safety.
  • Reporting unsafe work conditions.
  • Objecting to or refusing to participate in activities that violate a law or regulation.
  • Testifying or providing information to a government agent who is investigating or holding a hearing about an alleged illegal activity by the employer.
  • Disclosing or threatening to disclose information about activities or policies that violate the law. The employee must have previously brought the activity or policy to the attention of the employer or supervisor in writing to correct it.
  • Asserting their legal rights.

There are multiple ways an employee may seek relief if they have suffered damages because of employer retaliation, which may depend on the state or federal law(s) violated. An employee retaliation lawyer from Cruz Law can protect your at-will employment rights and help you hold an unscrupulous employer accountable for their wrongful conduct.

Legitimate Reasons for Termination in an At-Will State

At-will employment has more than meaning. Under the law, an employee has the freedom to quit their job at any time. At the same time, the employer can fire an employee at any time for almost any non-discriminatory or non-retaliatory reason without incurring legal liability.

At-will employment is easy on unhappy employees. Did you find a better job? You can quit and move on. Are you fed up? You can leave. The standard “two weeks’ notice” is not required. (Although, unless you are leaving a hostile environment or unsafe working conditions, agreeing to a “notice” work period when quitting is usually better than burning bridges.)

For employers, there may be lawful reasons to dismiss an employee, such as:

  • Unexcused absences or frequent tardiness.
  • Inadequate performance.
  • Insubordination (not following orders or instructions).
  • Repeated or egregious violation of safety rules or company policy. There should be adequate notice of rules and requirements, such as distributing a written policy manual.
  • Theft, fraud, or other illegal activity, including using company resources for personal benefit.
  • Violent misconduct, threats, bullying, or harassing other employees.
  • Substance abuse (alcohol or illegal drugs) on the job. Alcoholism is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as long as the employee does not violate policy addressing alcohol use or sobriety while at work. Drug addiction is protected under the ADA if the individual is in recovery and no longer illegally using drugs.
  • The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires a 60-day notice before a plant closing or other large-scale layoffs.

In theory, an employer could legally terminate a worker because the employee “doesn’t fit in” or because the employer doesn’t like “their looks.” But either of these reasons could constitute illegal discrimination if they are actually based on a protected status, such as race, gender, national origin, disability, etc.

Recruiting, interviewing, hiring, orienting, and training employees is costly. Most employers will not let a competent employee go without a legitimate reason. If you don’t think the reason for your termination is justified, you should ask for an explanation. After being fired, ask in writing from a private email account — not a company email account — for a written explanation as soon as possible.

You may not get a written explanation, but showing that you asked for one will be beneficial if you have a legal claim. If you were hired under an employment contract, it may state that the employer must provide notice before a termination. Company policy may outline requirements for terminating an employee. If your employer (through a supervisor) violated an employment agreement or the tacit agreement established by company policy, you may be due compensation for lost wages, reinstatement, or more.

Does Your Employment Contract Protect You in Florida?

Under Florida law, all employment contracts — written, spoken, or implied — are at-will employment agreements by default. If protections beyond anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation statutes are desired, they must be spelled out in the employment contract, which should be written and signed.

If you are working under a union agreement, it will provide you with protections against termination of your employment beyond what Florida law and federal statutes require. Federal, state, and local governments also make it more complicated to dismiss employees without egregious cause, such as workplace violence, in addition to statutory discrimination or harassment.

How Cruz Law Can Help in a Wrongful Termination Case

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, a Tallahassee employment lawyer from Cruz Law can help you. Our firm can:

  • Investigate the circumstances of your termination to find evidence that your employer’s motive for firing you was illegal.
  • Document your past, ongoing, and projected losses caused by your termination.
  • Prepare and file claims on your behalf for the relief you deserve.
  • Advocate on your behalf before the EEOC or FCHR.
  • Fight your case in court to demand the compensation you deserve.

We will start by discussing your legal options so that you know what to expect throughout your wrongful termination claim. Before filing an EEOC claim, an FCHR claim, or a lawsuit, it is preferable to try to resolve the issue with an employer. Cruz Law has a strong reputation across the Florida Panhandle for taking on some of Florida’s most difficult employment-related lawsuits. A letter from our firm and/or a conversation with an experienced employment law attorney may lead to a resolution to your improper dismissal that satisfies you.

If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit against your employer to make things right for you, we will do so on your behalf.

In a lawsuit or negotiations with your employer, we may demand:

  • Back pay, which is money you would have earned between your termination and the resolution of your legal claim.
  • Front pay, which is money you would have earned if not for the loss of your job and career advancement opportunities.
  • Compensation for emotional distress caused by your termination, including the cost of any mental health care you require.
  • Reimbursement of what it costs to find and move to a new job.
  • Payment of your legal expenses.
  • Reinstatement to your job, if that’s what you prefer.
  • Punitive damages to punish your employer for egregious conduct and to show other employers that such conduct will not be tolerated.

Contact a Tallahassee Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today

Tiffany R. CruzIf you were fired from a job in violation of civil rights protections or your employment rights, you could be owed substantial compensation for what you’ve been needlessly put through. The wrongful termination attorneys of Cruz Law can help you demand the monetary compensation and other legal relief you are due.

Contact us for a free and confidential consultation with an employment law attorney. Our law firm represents hard-working people who have been unfairly dismissed in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and across the Florida Panhandle. committed to providing each client with robust legal representation and personalized service, no matter how complex the case. Contact us online or call (850) 701-8838 today.


At Cruz Law Firm, P.A., we represent employees in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and throughout the Florida Panhandle. We’ll fight to protect your employment rights, from workplace discrimination and sexual harassment to wrongful termination and whistleblower claims. Let us put our experience to work for you.