When do I NOT have a strong Case?
The biggest misunderstanding we see in the majority of potential clients who contact us is employees who believe that unfair, immoral, unethical, illogical or even hostile and harassing treatment is against the law and can form the basis for a claim. The employer may have been cruel, crude, callous or capricious — but none of these things, by themselves, are necessarily against the law or make for a strong case.
Accurately Valuing Your Employment Law Case
Here are common situations that people think should make a good case, but don’t:
“I was wrongly discharged.”
Unfortunately, there is no general or common law against “wrongful discharge” in Florida. Some states have statutes about wrongful termination, but not Florida. As such, it will not be a sufficient basis for a claim for an employee to show that the decision to terminate was unfair, unethical, a poor business decision, based on false information, based on a personality issue or done without prior warnings or lesser disciplinary actions.
“I was obviously discriminated against.”
It is illegal to discriminate against employees, but only when:
- They are members of a protected class (race, religion, gender, age, national origin, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, genetic condition, etc.)
- Or when you have been engaged in protected conduct (you complained about unlawful discrimination or other illegal conduct, you filed a complaint against the employer with a government agency such as the EEOC, you filed a workers’ compensation claim, you exercised family medical leave rights, etc.)
Your employer may have treated you unfairly by any description. But under the law, only suits based on protected groups or protected conduct can go forward.
“I’m a minority, and the discrimination against me was racist.”
Discrimination on the basis of race is indeed illegal. But — not every situation rises to the level of a lawsuit. If your employer calls you a racist name, you may need to prove that the employer only did this to your minority. If everyone at your place of employment was treated equally poorly, then you weren’t discriminated against. You were treated rudely, which happens everywhere, from Miami to West Palm Beach — but is not against the law.
“My boss made a very suggestive joke.”
In order to meet the legal level of sexual harassment, your employer has to engage in harassing behavior that is severe or pervasive. There must be a pattern of harassment, such as comments made on nearly a daily basis, or extreme conduct such as touching an employee’s private areas or attempting unwanted sexual contact.
“I was made to work in a hostile work environment.”
Many of us work in very unpleasant circumstances. But again, to qualify as a hostile work environment, it must be more than your boss yelling at you. You must show that this hostility is the result of you being a member of a protected class of people or people engaged in a protected type of action. Without those conditions in place, you just have a lousy job. Your best remedy may well be to quit and find a better place to work, not to file a lawsuit.
“I was fired last week because I complained three years ago.”
Generally, to win a retaliation case, it’s important that the protected conduct (such as complaining about discrimination, bringing a workers’ compensation claim, etc.) and the adverse action (demotion, termination, etc.) be close in time. Typically, courts will dismiss claims where the time period between protected conduct and adverse action is more than three months, unless you can show lesser acts of retaliation in between (write-ups, being left out of meetings, etc).
So — Do I Have a Case?
Not if you are unable to meet the requirements of federal or Florida employment law. Our state is tougher on workers than many other states. That is unfortunate, but true. If you are in doubt as to whether your employee rights have been violated, fill out the Case Evaluation (“How Can We Help You?”) form on the left side of this page. We’re on your side, and we want to help, but your situation must first qualify.
Quality employment law representation for South Florida workers — call Gallup Auerbach at 888-545-2325 .