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Legal Memorandum: Retaliatory Discharge Claims in FL

Issue: Under Florida law, how does a plaintiff make a case of retaliatory discharge?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Workers Compensation Insurance
Keywords: Retaliatory discharge; Adverse employment action
Jurisdiction: Florida
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Florida Statutes § 440.205
Date: 11/01/2006

  Florida Statutes § 440.205 provides that “[n]o employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim to compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.”  Fla. Stat. § 440.205 (2006).  In order to establish a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge under this statute, the plaintiff must show that (1) he engaged in a statutorily protected activity, (2) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (3) a causal connection exists between the employee’s participation in the protected expression and the adverse employment action.  Hogan v. Country Club of Brevard, Inc., No. 640CV272ORL31JGG (M.D. Fla. July 1, 2005); Kotek v. Terracina, LLC, No. 2:02CV692FTM33DNF (M.D. Fla. May 10, 2005).    

In Hogan, the plaintiff suffered adverse health effects from exposure to mold in the workplace and filed a workers’ compensation claim.  The plaintiff was later discharged from her employment and brought a retaliation claim against her former employer.  The defendant employer moved for summary judgment.  The Hogan court considered the proof necessary to establish a claim of retaliatory discharge.  The evidence, the court explained, could be either direct or circumstantial.  Direct evidence—such as an outright statement by a supervisor that an employee is being fired for an improper reason—demonstrates discriminatory intent without the need to resort to inferences or presumptions.  Id.  Looking to the standards applied in Title VII employment discrimination cases for guidance, the court concluded that, “[u]ltimately, language amounting to direct evidence must: (1) be made […]

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