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Furloughs Turning into Layoffs in Florida: Know Your Rights as an Employee

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A number of employees who were once furloughed but who are now going to be permanently laid off, has hit news headlines around the country, including here in Florida, where the Trump National Doral Miami announced that 250 out of 560 workers that were furloughed in March – all of them nonunion workers, including cooks, engineers, concierges, housekeepers, service attendants, and servers – are going to be laid off instead of simply furloughed, as originally announced. According to the resort, it had to “assess new circumstances [it] was facing due to the duration and severity of COVID-19,” and, as a result, some areas of the resort are set to reopen, while others will be closed or under limited operations for some time, thus reducing the number of overall workers needed.

While Florida, like many others, is an at-will employment state, and can thus lay off workers as needed, that does not necessarily mean that every lay off is legal. Below, we discuss some of the labor and employment legal concerns that need to be taken into account when it comes to workers being laid off, and why discussing these issues with an employment lawyer – rather than necessarily just accepting them – makes sense:

Contracts

First, if you have an employment contract with your employer, you will want to examine the fine print to see if it provides for employment for a particular length of time, if it indicates that you can only be laid off under particular circumstances, etc. Whether you have a contract that explicitly states that you can only be fired for specific reasons, or an implied contract (for example, a handbook that was provided to employees that provides certain promises, etc.), you will want to speak with an attorney about what your rights are with respect to being laid off in case it has been done under illegal circumstances.

Discrimination & Retaliation

Layoffs also may be found to be illegal if they end up having a disproportionate impact on a protected class; for example, on older, disabled, and/or female workers, those of a particular national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation, or if individuals are selected to be laid off in order for the employer to retaliate against them.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act

Also note that the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act mandates that employers who lay off a certain number of employees provide a certain amount of advance notice, and if they fail to do so, employees are entitled to pay for any day missed (for up to 60 days). Employers may try to claim that COVID-19 presented an “unforeseen circumstance” which should provide an exception to the 60-day notice requirement, and your attorney will be able to discuss with you whether that argument may or may not be successful in U.S. District Court.

Contact Our Florida Labor & Employment Law Attorneys If You Have Been Laid Off & Have Questions About Your Rights

Employees have very specific rights in the workplace, and our employment attorneys help protect those rights by holding employers accountable. If you have been the victim of an unfair employment decision here in Florida, speak with one of our Jacksonville labor & employment attorneys at Douglas & Carter, Attorneys at Law today to find out how we can help.

Resources:

apnews.com/60942e9f1371bb27adcdba55cbf27fae

dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/Layoff/pdfs/WARN%20FAQ%20for%20COVID19.pdf

https://www.douglasandcarter.com/u-s-supreme-court-sides-makes-it-easier-for-federal-employees-to-sue-over-age-discrimination/

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