Even when workers give employers their best, the sad truth is that some companies that employ workers do not follow the law. Even in states where employment is at-will, several reasons are still prohibited as grounds for termination. If an employer fires you for a prohibited reason, it’s called wrongful termination.
If you’re the victim of wrongful termination, it is frustrating, worrisome and infuriating! After all, you rely on your job to live and support your family. You may take legal action against your employer for an illegal firing. However, it’s up to you to make your case. You must answer the big question: How do you prove wrongful termination?
Our Tampa employment law attorneys share the steps to take in order to prove wrongful termination in Florida.
1. Identify the Actual Reason for the Termination
Even if your employer has an ulterior motive, they’re unlikely to come out and say it. The employer is likely to rely on a pretext in order to fire you. However, you suspect something different.
You don’t have to accept your employer’s word for it when it comes to why you were fired. Instead, you can point out the truth of what really happened. Go beyond the immediate reason given for the termination and look underneath. You do this by showing that the employer fired you for a false or fabricated reason to hide the truth.
2. Determine the Law That Prohibits the Reason You Were Terminated
Once you identify the actual reason that you were terminated, you need to prove that you fall into a protected class. In other words, you need to find the law that prohibits termination for the reason that you were let go.
There is a wide variety of employment discrimination laws1 that come from both federal and state sources. They prohibit termination for many different reasons, including race, religion, national origin, age, disability and taking a legal leave.
Employment Contracts and Union Agreements
If you have an employment contract or are a union member, your employer must follow the contract that applies to you. Violation of the agreement may be the basis for wrongful termination. If a contract applies, you can still expect your employer to claim a so-called reason they can dismiss you that doesn’t violate the agreement. However, you can rely on the contract and prove the real reason for your termination.
3. Understand What You Need To Prove To Win Your Case
As you set out to prove wrongful termination, it helps to understand what you need to prove. The United States Supreme Court created guidelines for the entire country, including in the State of Florida. These guidelines are called the McDonnell-Douglas test.
The victim must show that they are a member of a protected class and qualified for the position in question. They must also show that the employer took adverse action against them. In addition, they must show that a similarly situated person outside of the class was treated differently by the employer or that the employer continued to solicit applicants with similar qualifications.
4. Start With Your Own Statements
Do not overlook that you may be your own star witness in a wrongful termination case. You may testify to the timeline of events and how the employer treated you. In addition, certain statements made by supervisors, managers and even co-workers can be admissible. It may be helpful to use your own statements because you can explain in your own words what led up to your termination.
5. Rely on Co-Workers and Other Witnesses
Wrongful termination cases are highly fact-dependent. That means they often come down to who said or did what. Credibility questions are key because the two sides are going to disagree. You may need to aggressively build the case by interviewing witnesses like co-workers, clients and customers. Identifying these witnesses and getting their statements on the record through affidavits, depositions and testimony at hearings can be critical to proving your case.
6. Gather Employment Records
Once you’ve talked to witnesses, it’s time to gather employment records. There may be emails, performance reviews, an employee file, scheduling records and the like that are valuable to you. A supervisor or other employer may have put an off-handed comment in a document that shows their true motivation. Producing these records may be tedious, but they can be invaluable to establishing wrongful termination.
7. Show Similar Cases That Evidence a Pattern
When proving wrongful termination, you have to prove that what happened to you specifically, not anyone else, was unlawful. However, if other instances demonstrate a pattern, these examples can still be helpful to prove your case. Florida Evidence Code § 90.4042 says other examples may be admissible to show the employer’s true intent, motive or plan.
8. Think About the Timeline of Events
During a wrongful termination case, the timeline of events can be critical. For example, if you made a complaint of discrimination and suddenly received negative performance reviews, the timing of evidence can tell the story. Carefully understanding the timeline can be critical to proving wrongful termination in Florida.
9. Refute the Employer’s Response
Even though you’re the plaintiff in a wrongful termination case, you may need to play defense. To prove wrongful termination in Florida, you need to refute what the employer has to say. Read their defense carefully. See what evidence they produce to support their claim. Then, build the proper arguments and rebuttals to counter their position and make your claim convincing.
Experienced Attorneys for Wrongful Termination in Florida
Do you need to prove wrongful termination in Florida? Let our Tampa attorneys for wrongful termination help you build the evidence to prove the case. Contact our legal team today. You may need to work quickly to file your claim, so don’t hesitate to contact us today to get started.
1U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices. Retrieved 24 August 2021 from https://www.eeoc.gov/prohibited-employment-policiespractices