Florida is an at-will employment state. This means that employers can generally fire their employees for pretty much any reason. A reason for terminating an employee in Florida can be anything from a performance issue, to budget cuts, to a simple personal dislike for the employee. However, although employers do have a lot of leeway to get rid of unwanted employees, they cannot fire employees in violation of any state or federal employment law.
Employers cannot fire workers on the basis of their nationality, religion, sex, age, disability, or race, among a number of other categories. In a recent case in another at-will state, a woman has claimed that the Mars Chocolate North America company fired her both because of her sexual orientation and because she was pregnant. Here in Florida, there is no state law that protects people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but there is a law like this in the state where this case is taking place.
This case was filed in New Jersey, where it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of his or her sexual orientation.
The woman involved in this case was reportedly fired from the chocolate company in 2011, after her co-workers learned that she was a lesbian. The woman, who worked for the company for 10 years before her sexual orientation was known in the workplace, says she was treated very well at work until people learned she was a lesbian and she started requesting time off for her pregnancy.
According to a wrongful termination lawsuit, the woman’s co-workers began treating her differently after meeting her partner and their son at a conference in Florida. In addition to this, the lawsuit alleges that the woman was given poor performance reviews when she began having complications with her pregnancy.
Ultimately, the lawsuit states, this led to her termination from the company. The future of this case remains to be seen. Wrongful termination lawsuits sometimes lead to compensation for lost wages and related damages.
Source: NJ.com, “N.J. woman was fired from Mars for being gay and pregnant,” Jeff Goldman, Feb. 21, 2013