So, you’ve just been fired from your job.
You gave them everything you had while you worked there, didn’t you?
And then, either because of your age, or disability, or race, or pregnancy, or need for medical leave or for some other legitimate reason, they turned their back on you and replaced you just like that?
I call it the Janet Jackson mentality- “What have you done for me lately?” In 17 years of practicing employment law, I have really seen it all
…from the outright smoking gun documents confirming a long term dedicated employee was fired for being black or pregnant etc. based on racism/discrimination…
…to the other end of the spectrum of an employee being caught smoking crack in the workplace with prostitutes (while posting pictures on Instagram) who wanted me represent him for wrongful termination.
LISTEN TO WHY MOST PEOPLE REACH OUT TO OUR LAW FIRM AFTER GETTING FIRED
Yes, I have seen it all.
But this brings me to an important point- wrongful termination.
What is it? Can I do something about it? Can I go after my former employer for it?
The answer really depends.
Here is the general law…
In Florida, you are what is referred to as an “at-will” employee. What this means is that you can be fired for any reason, an untrue one, a made up one, a silly one, or even without a reason, and it is not illegal. Let me say that again, it is not illegal.
But, if your firing had something to do with you being a whistleblower, part of a protected race, being gay, or transgender, or pregnant, or older, or on FMLA, or because you complained about sexual harassment, or some other protected category that’s illegal, that is an exception to this rule and your firing may be illegal.
That is where we come in to help. So for starters, let me tell you what I tell every single client. There is a difference between unfair and illegal.
If you are fired unfairly but legally, there is not much I can do to help. If you were fired unfairly and illegally, let me review your case, I can possibly help.
LISTEN AS I SHARE WHAT TO DO TO FIND OUT IF YOU WERE FIRED ILLEGALLY
But, before we begin, I want you to understand how wrongful termination cases work.
This is important up front.
I need you to understand all of this going into it: Remember the Chevy Malibu car? It exploded when the gas tank got hit from behind.
Well, Chevy decided that it was cheaper to just pay off lawsuits for people killed when the Malibu exploded, than to fix the defective vehicles and get them off the street.
Sounds pretty awful, right?
Welcome to wrongful termination cases.
Throughout my career, I have represented huge companies and individuals in discrimination and employment related lawsuits.
I now know, over seventeen (17) years, that like the Malibu and its exploding tank, companies regularly know that there is illegal conduct and discrimination/harassment in their companies.
But, rather than fix the system and do things the right way, many companies simply decide that it is cheaper to pay out employment litigation settlements if they come up.
They are right you know.
Unfortunately, very few employees have are willing to sue a company for their illegal practices. We have these rights in the workplace, but so many are scared to use them. I have more bad news.
Even when a company gets sued for discrimination or wrongful termination, most of the time, they aren’t even spending their own money to litigate these cases.
Most companies have something called Employment Practices Liability Insurance (“EPLI”) which requires them to simply pay a small deductible, and then they are covered both for legal fees and damages after that.
This type of insurance actually encourages employers to stick it to their employees, because the company knows that their worst case scenario, is losing a $25,000 deductible. Why would a company actually do the right thing?
So, where does that leave employees who have been wrongfully terminated?
While most of these cases settle at some point (more than 80% in my experience), I always tell my clients that if we are going to protect your rights, you need to be expected to go all the way with me.
That means, my client needs to commit to the possibility that an employer will not want to settle with you, and you will have to sit through depositions and trial in your case.
A typical wrongful termination claim from start to finish (EEOC through appeal) takes 20 months. Clients can expect to invest at least 50 hours of time into their case during the process.
All the while, you are hopefully working at a new job and trying to move on with your life.
The wrongdoing company knows this, and is counting on you just eventually giving up and saying “I’ll take whatever you can get, Rich.”
When we combine this behavior with the lack of experienced “wrongful termination” lawyers who are scared or unable to bring the fight to the company, it is a disaster in waiting as the case progresses. Accordingly, know your attorney’s trial record and skills before getting involved with a lawyer; strolling on the courthouse steps is not the greatest time to learn that this is your lawyer’s “first time doing this.”
Any lawyer who tries cases is happy to tell you their results.
Any attorney who cannot answer this question should make the warning signs go off.
I don’t want you to think that settling your case is a negative. A settlement brings a finite end to your case, and it permits you to actually be involved in the decision making (rather than a strange judge or jury).
While settlement generally results in a lower award than your full damages if you win at trial, there is truly some value to you personally.
As discussed above, the cases are all consuming, both emotionally and financially.
Clients often describe their involvement as reinjuring an old scab and not letting it heal, because during each deposition or discussion, the same illegal and sad facts are focused on bringing up tough emotions and memories.
As far as what to expect if we can resolve your case, there is no bright line rule. As a practice, our firm generally requests two years of back pay and payment of our attorneys’ fees and costs.
Over nearly two decades of doing this, I estimate that a typical severance/settlement is between 4 months to 12 months depending on how strong the case is. If my client wants to fight for more, their option is to go to trial and I’m behind them.
But, the client needs to be aware of the risks of so doing. If we lose (I don’t like losing and it doesn’t happen often, but I cannot control that), you may be obligated to pay the other side’s lawyers’ fees and costs. Through trial, this could be $60,000 plus.
If a client really wants to go to trial, they need to appreciate having a “skin” in the game, that nothing is certain or a “slam dunk,”, and that if it doesn’t work out, they can be responsible for a substantial amount.
This is why cases often settle.
Not too many people like the risk.
So Should You Pursue a Wrongful Termination Claim?
So here is my philosophy on wrongful termination claims – If a thug approached you on the street and stole your wallet, would you go after them?
The answer is generally yes.
LISTEN TO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU REACH OUT WITH A POTENTIAL WRONGFUL TERMINATION CLAIM
Then I ask, “then why is it any different when an employer steals your rights illegally via wrongful termination? Are you going to chase them?”
And this is when I get the look from my client that they get it, and understand that whether the person is wearing a mask or a business suit, illegal is illegal.
Now that we have gotten some of the “what to expect discussion out of the way,” if you’ve been fired, reach out today and let’s talk about how I may be able to help you with your specific employment situation.
Contact our Davie, Florida Wrongful Termination Attorney at Celler, Legal, P.A. for a FREE consultation regarding your case today.