FLORIDA EMPLOYMENT LAW
Like almost every other state, Florida is an employment-at-will state. So, an at-will employee may quit at any time for any reason. Likewise, may be discharged at any time if she is not terminated for a reason against the law, like discrimination.
Florida law does not allow an employee to sue for breach of at-will employment. That means, the employee and employer cannot sue each other about termination of at-will employment.
Written contracts are, of course, allowed in Florida. But if an employment contract does not go for a specify period of time, it can be ended by either the employer or the employee at any time. That is at-will employment. No wrongful termination can be claimed. An employment contract is read as a whole, and the plain meaning of that language is most important.The words of the employment contract are the best evidence of the parties' intent. Only if the plain meaning of the contract for employment provides a fixed, specific timeframe, then the employment contract is enforceable.
At-will employment means that an employee cannot sue an employer for having given up prior employment or alternative employment. But at-will employees are not precented from enforcing severance agreements.
The implied covenant of good faith exists in virtually all contractual relationships, including a Florida employer's relationship with its employee in an employment contract. This covenant seeks to protect the contracting parties' reasonable expectations. Florida law considers the implied covenant of good faith to be a part of an employment contract. So specific terms in the contract are examined closely. Was there a term of the contract the other party was obligated to perform and did not? Note that there can be no financial recovery in court for mental pain and anguish resulting from the breach of contract (unless such a breach of contract amounts to an independent, willful legal violation (a tort).
Florida Statutes section 542.335 guides a court in enforcing the terms of a noncompete agreement, a nonsolicitation agreement, or any similar type of restrictive covenant.
Even if a noncompete agreement, nonsolicitation agreement, or other restrictive covenant was valid when signed, wrongful termination in (breach of the employment contract) could nake the restrictive covenant unenforceable.
Note that a restrictive covenant is not enforceable unless it is set forth in a writing, and is signed by the person against whom enforcement is sought. Verbal agreements not to compete are not be enforceable. And a legitimate business interest must justifying the noncompete agreement, meaning an identifiable business asset that is an investment by the one seeking the noncompete restriction. The idea is to prevent the new owner from having an unfair advantage competing against the former owner.
It is important whether a worker is classified as an “employee” or “independent contractor” because it matters to: taxation; unemployment compensation; Social Security and Medicare benefits; health insurance and other employer-provided benefits; coverage under federal, state, and local labor and employment laws; and coverage under Florida's workers' compensation statute. These coverages and benefits are usually not available to independent contractors who pay self-employment taxes and cover their own business expenses.
Businesses significantly reduce their expenses and requirements by classifying workers as independent contractors. Specifically, they avoid paying Federal Social Security, Medicare, and payroll taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, and state employment taxes. Businesses are responsible for their employees' negligent acts committed during the course of and within the scope of employment. Business also must comply with federal, state, and local laws regulating the employment relationship and be certain of its terms and conditions. Yet those obligations generally do not apply attach when independent contractors are hired instead of employees. So businesses typically save 25 to 30 percent on total costs by classifying their workers as independent contractors. Various Florida laws have different criteria to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee for purposes of that law. These tests focus on the employer's level of control and oversight over the worker.
(a) the extent of control which, by the agreement, the master may exercise over the details of the work;
(b) whether or not the one employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business;
(c) the kind of occupation, with reference to whether, in the locality, the work is usually done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision;
(d) the skill required in the particular occupation;
(e) whether the employer or the workman supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work for the person doing the work;
(f) the length of time for which the person is employed;
(g) the method of payment, whether by the time or by the job;
(h) whether or not the work is a part of the regular business of the employer;
(i) whether or not the parties believe they are creating the relation of master and servant; and
(j) whether the principal is or is not in business.
Again: among these ten factors, the “extent of control” is recognized in Florida as the most important factor to determine whether a person is an employee or independent contractor. “Control” refers to the right to direct what shall be done and how and when it shall be done. If control is limited to results only, there is generally an independent contractor relationship, not an employment relationship. If control includes the means used to achieve the results, there is generally an employer-employee relationship.