Wrongful termination is a violation of the law but often difficult to prove without the expert advice of a trusted Miami wrongful termination lawyer. Termination that occurred on the basis of discrimination, harassment or illegal retaliation due to complaints about discrimination, unpaid wages, requests for medical leave, workers’ compensation, and/or reporting illegal activity constitutes wrongful termination.
In most wrongful termination cases based on discrimination, the employee will need to file a formal claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within months of the termination.
The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Legal experts agree that an employment law attorney should file the wrongful termination claim with the EEOC on your behalf.
Before filing, the attorney will gather evidence that discrimination and/or retaliation ultimately resulted in your wrongful termination. Any skilled wrongful termination attorney in Miami or Florida would agree that the strongest claims are backed by compelling evidence such as text messages, emails, witnesses or showing that the reason for termination is false and an employee was treated differently than those in a similarly situated position. Given the nature of your claim, this may be emotionally upsetting; the investigation may require you to recollect traumatic events to maximize the strength of your claim from the start.
In the meantime, start thinking about your time at work and how others in your same or similar position were treated differently and why the stated reason for termination is false. State and federal employment laws protect employees who are discriminated against in the workplace.What Types of Discrimination Does the EEOC Recognize?
- Equal Pay
- Medical Accommodation Requests
- Medical Condition
- Medical Leave
- National Origin
Sometimes discrimination is more subtle, leaving employees blindsided by wrongful termination.
Carefully consider the workplace environment and whether employees in the same or similar roles receive equal treatment.
- Company Policies
- Were company policies equally enforced? For example, Sara and Bill were 35-minutes late to work every morning but the employer only reprimanded Sara.
- Employee Benefits
- Did the employer offer equal benefits to employees with identical job classifications? For example, John and Lisa started working for a medical supplies company at the same time and had the same job duties, qualifications, and job title, yet John drove a company car; Lisa was denied one plus John made an additional $10,000 per year.
- Hiring Process
- Was the employer’s on-boarding process the same for employees with identical job classifications? For example, there are two identical job openings at Company A. Equally qualified applicants Drew and Mark pass the interview and told they’ll be notified by phone about a decision. The next day, Drew, a white man, gets a call; he got the job. Mark, a black man, also gets a call; he’ll get the job, too, but only if he produces three additional references.
- Rate of Pay
- Were similarly classified employees paid equally? For example, 60-year-old Carl works as a forklift operator and makes $15 an hour. His 25-year-old co-worked Manny also drives a forklift but makes $19 an hour for the same work.
- Termination History
- Did the employer regularly terminate employees from certain minority groups? For example, Company A terminated 20 employees last year--ten men, ten women. Of the 20, though, 15 were Muslim with great performance records.
- Workload Distribution
- Did the employer evenly distribute the workload among employees? For example, Kat, a graphic designer at a boutique agency, announced she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, her supervisor doubled Kat’s workload.
- Workplace Injury and Benefits Request
- Did the employer treat employees who were injured on the job equally? For example, Matt and Corey were injured on the job. Their employer allowed Matt to work from home but required Corey to work on-site despite having the same back injury.
An overwhelming majority of the American workforce is “at-will,” meaning that employment is presumed to be voluntary and indefinite. In other words, you may quit for any reason, at any time, without warning. It’s also important to realize that an employer has the right to terminate you for almost any reason, at any time, without warning. Thankfully, it is illegal for an employer to terminate you on the basis of discrimination and/or retaliation for complaining about discrimination, workplace injuries, illegal activities or other protected activities.
What is Discrimination?
The bottom line: discrimination against an applicant and/or employee on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age is illegal. It happens, though. And workplace discrimination manifests in many different ways. Some examples include:
- Racial Discrimination
- For example, a qualified candidate is denied the job solely based on the color of their skin.
- Gender Discrimination
- For example, an inexperienced male employee is promoted over a qualified female candidate.
- Religious Discrimination
- For example, a Jewish employee receives less training than a Christian colleague, limiting their job proficiency and jeopardizing job security.
- Disability Discrimination
- For example, a new, non-vital job duty that prevents employees with disabilities from working.
Harassment of any kind is wrong, but only illegal if based on discrimination or protected activity. Thousands of workers each year report workplace harassment ranging from racial slurs to unwelcome sexual advances. This creates non-productive, hostile work environments.
Some examples of workplace harassment include:
- Unwelcome Comments
- For example, comments about an employee’s physical appearance, including sexually explicit fantasies.
- Racial Slurs and Epithets
- For example, making derogatory comments and using offensive terms with racial undertones and stereotypes.
- Prejudicial Statements about Sexuality
- For example, making offensive comments about an employee’s gender traits.
- Religious Bigotry
- For example, making offensive comments about an employee’s faith and religious beliefs.
- For example, targeting an employee with hostile behavior on the basis of age (over 40).
- Sexual harassment
- For example, spanking an employee’s butt. Quid pro quo is another form of workplace harassment that AN Law Firm, P.A. regularly handles. For example, an employee propositioned for a sexual favor in return for job security is a type of quid pro quo. It’s inappropriate and creates a hostile work environment. Think of a quid pro quo as a “favor for a favor” or the equivalent of “you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-your-back.”
These are some of the cases Miami wrongful termination lawyer Alberto Naranjo has personally handled to prove a hostile work environment existed. Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality, but the details of the story remain the same.
Protecting Yourself Against Wrongful Termination
Amy had been working at a busy medical facility for five months when the company’s CEO invited her to dinner. At that dinner, the CEO attempted to kiss Amy on the mouth. Amy rejected the CEO’s unwanted sexual advance and was terminated shortly thereafter. Our investigation uncovered a workplace culture of complicity and exposed a predatory CEO. The company agreed to award a severance package worth more than Amy had earned in her five months of employment.
Adam has a rare medical condition that prevents him from spending time outdoors. Long-term sun exposure is detrimental to his health, but he is fully capable of meeting work responsibilities with reasonable accommodation. Unfortunately, Adam’s employer denied his request for reasonable accommodation, which led to his unjust termination. Our investigation proved that Adam was, in fact, wrongfully terminated. The court agreed and awarded compensatory damages.
Mark, a black valet attendant, was often left out of staff meetings and blatantly ignored by his Hispanic/Latino supervisor. That supervisor ultimately terminated Mark with no warning and/or explanation for the decision. An AN Law Firm, P.A. investigation discovered that the supervisor let Hispanic/Latino employees regularly break company policies and procedures without consequence. Alberto was able to recover lost wages for Mark on the basis of racial discrimination.
Several Central American janitorial workers were terminated after complaining about verbal harassment and ethnic discrimination. Attorney Alberto Naranjo was able to prove the janitors often worked for less money than their colleagues and were targeted for termination by their supervisor. The workers received a generous severance package as a result of our investigation.
Jen, a black female, was terminated from her job after voicing concerns about her supervisor’s discriminatory behavior. AN Law Firm, P.A. investigators discovered that the supervisor, a white woman, often rewarded Jen’s white colleagues with work-from-home privileges and other benefits not readily available to Jen. Moreover, Jen’s supervisor blatantly refused to give her a raise despite stellar performance reviews and perfect attendance throughout her year-long stint with the hospital. This information, along with the client’s written records of racial discrimination, helped Alberto Naranjo recover Jen’s lost wages.
The following tips help employees protect themselves against wrongful termination:
- Detailed Records
- Document all discriminatory, harassing, or retaliatory comments made and/or directed about you. Include all related write-ups, performance reviews, and documents, but keep the information private until consulting an attorney. Employment law experts suggest employees keep a personal diary (not on company-owned devices) for these record-keeping purposes.
- Personal Emails
- It may be difficult to recover emails from a former employer’s serves. Use a personal email account whenever you communicate with an employer about discrimination, unpaid wages, medical leave, policy violations, illicit activity, and other matters not directly with your job duties.
- Observe the Workplace
- It’s possible an employer may favor some employees over others, but that’s only illegal if it violates anti-discrimination laws. Pay close attention to how the employer treats employees in similar roles and keep a log of specific examples. Include dates, names, etc.
- Contact an Employment Law Attorney
- Labor laws are complex and, admittedly, not that exciting outside of the profession. Before speaking with HR, speak with an employment law attorney.
Wrongful termination is a violation of the law, plain and simple. No employer has the right to terminate your employment on the basis of discrimination. But every case is different.
If you were wrongfully terminated and are in need of a skilled lawyer, contact Miami’s AN Law Firm, P.A. for a risk-free consultation about your wrongful termination claim.