KMM   Law Offices of Kathleen M. Moore


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Fax:       954-302-4969




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Employment Leave and Termination Issues


Just as there are many issues to be considered when hiring employees, questions arise with regard to leaves of absence for employees and the ability of an employer to terminate an employee.  Following are answers to some of the issues an employer may face in these situations.


Leaves of Absence.  Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers are entitled to as much as 12 weeks of leave to care for a new child, certain seriously ill relatives or to recover from their own serious health condition.  Employers do not have to pay for this time off, but cannot discriminate against the employee for taking the time off.  However, this federal law applies only if the company has 50 or more employees.  In Florida, employees also have the right to take time off to handle issues relating to domestic violence in addition to the rights granted by the FMLA,


Termination of Employment.  The general rule is that workers are employed “at will” unless there is an employment agreement that limits the right to terminate someone’s employment.  In Florida, such an agreement must be an express agreement, either in writing or oral.  Absent an employment agreement, either the company or the worker can terminate the employment at any time.


Unlawful Termination.  Notwithstanding the at-will doctrine above, employers cannot terminate an employee for an unlawful reason.  For example, employers cannot let someone go for complaining about unsafe conditions, for refusing to do something illegal, or based upon his or her sex, race, religion, national origin, age or disability.


Severance.  If an employee is at will and there was no promise to pay severance, there is no legal requirement to do so.  But if severance was paid to other terminated employees, a claim may be made that there is an implied agreement to pay severance.


In order to provide more certainty when dealing with employees, it is a good idea to have an employee manual that sets forth the policies and procedures of the company with regard to leaves and termination.  Each employee should be given his or her own company of the manual and should be required to sign a receipt that he or she received the manual.  Furthermore, an employer may also consider buying Employment Practices Liability Insurance to protect against wrongful termination claims.