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Exceptions to at-will employment

In previous blog posts, we have discussed what "at-will employment" means to employees and employers across Florida. Essentially, it means that a person can be fired or quit for just about any or no reason without having to face legal consequences.

However, it is very important to note that there are exceptions the at-will presumption. Should one of these exceptions be identified, it could drastically impact an employee's right to pursue a wrongful termination claim.

In some situations, an employment contract is in place to protect employees from being fired without cause. There may be clauses that either dictate the length of the contractually-protected employment or language that specifies what actions or behaviors will merit a lawful termination.

The actions or statements of an employer can also play a significant role in defining the at-will relationship. For example, some courts in some states will consider that an employee's rights were violated if he or she was fired just before receiving a large commission or retirement benefits. Additionally, if the employee was promised that his or her employment was secure and then fired, he or she may have grounds to pursue legal action and compensation for damages.

If it can be argued that an employment relationship was not at-will because of these or other types of exceptions to at-will employment relationships, an employer can face legal consequences in the form of a wrongful termination claim. However, these claims can be extraordinarily complicated and legally complex.

Should disputes regarding wrongful termination or at-will employment arise, it can be in the best interests of both the employee and the employer to seek legal guidance.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, "The at-will presumption and exceptions to the rule," accessed on March 9, 2015

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