Legal Memorandum: Retaliatory Discharge Actions in FL

Issue: Under Florida law, what evidence of causation will defeat a motion for summary judgment in a retaliatory discharge action?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure, Workers Compensation Insurance
Keywords: Retaliatory discharge action; Summary judgment; Evidence
Jurisdiction: Florida
Cited Cases: 650 So. 2d 644; 606 So. 2d 1249; 839 So. 2d 747
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 11/01/2006

In Kotek v. Terracina, LLC, No. 2:02CV692FTM33DNF (M.D. Fla. May 10, 2005), the plaintiff alleged that her employer began to criticize her performance only after she filed a workers’ compensation claim.  Ultimately, her employment was terminated, and the plaintiff brought suit for retaliatory discharge.  In support of her allegations, she pointed to the correlation between her need for increased medical tests and increased criticism of her work, as well as the fact that her supervisor forbade her from discussing her injury and workers’ compensation claim.  The employer contended, however, that the plaintiff was terminated for her poor performance.  The conflict between that allegation and the plaintiff’s assertion that she was fired for engaging in a statutorily protected activity raised a genuine issue of material fact as to the causation element of the prima facie case, and thus the employer was not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.  Id.

Similarly, in Hodges v. Citrus World, Inc., 850 So. 2d 648 (Fla. 2d Dist. Ct. App. 2003), a discharged employee sued her former employer for retaliatory discharge, also alleging that she was terminated for seeking workers’ compensation benefits.  The employer moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion.  The employee appealed.  The Second District Court of Appeal reversed, holding in that case, too, that a genuine issue of material fact as to the requisite causal connection precluded summary judgment. 

In Hodges, the plaintiff had acknowledged in her discovery responses and summary […]

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