When we consult with clients, they are often surprised to learn that common beliefs about their rights as employees are incorrect. Here is the truth about the top five employee rights myths.
- I can sue for “wrongful termination.” NOT TRUE. Florida does not recognize a claim for “wrongful termination.” In Florida, employment is considered “at-will” absent a contract for employment for a definite time period. At-will means that employers can terminate employees at any time, for any lawful reason, with or without notice. Thus, if an employer terminates an employee based on lawful reasons/motivations (even if you disagree with the reason or believe it is unfair), employees generally do not have any recourse to challenge the termination.
- My employer must give me a neutral employment reference or follow its own policy requiring neutral references. WRONG. While many employees we see believe that an employer is only allowed to provide a neutral reference or has to follow their own company policy on references, this is simply untrue. Check out our blog References: Can My Former Employer Talk Bad About Me to Prospective Employers? for more information about negative references, Florida law and your rights.
- I have the absolute right to obtain my personnel records. FALSE. Another common misconception by employees is that they have a right to get a copy of their own personnel records. In the private sector—meaning non-governmental employers—this is just not the case. While an employee can ask the employer for a copy of his or her personnel file, generally there is no way to force the employer to voluntarily provide it. An employer would only be required to provide your personnel records if legally compelled to do so by a court or through a lawfully issued subpoena.
- My employer must always follow its own policies and procedures. NOPE. While employees must follow company policies or face discipline or discharge, the same is not true for employers. An employer is not legally bound to follow their own policies and procedures. Thus, employers generally can apply their policies and procedures inconsistently in the workplace (except for unlawful reasons such as discrimination or retaliation), and employees may have no recourse.
- I can sue if I work in a “hostile environment.” NOT ALWAYS. Many of the clients we see consult with our firm to evaluate their working environment, which they may describe as a “hostile working environment.” While a working environment may certainly be hostile, not all such workplace environments are prohibited by federal or state law. Hostile working environments that are not based on a protected characteristic (such as race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, etcetera) are not unlawful. Thus, it is important to get informed and know your rights by consulting with an experienced employee rights attorney to evaluate whether you have an actionable hostile working environment claim. You can also check out our related blogs on unlawful discrimination here.