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Scott Wagner & Associates, P.A. Florida Labor & Employment Lawyer
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Workplace Retaliation in Florida: An Overview of Temporal Proximity

Employment6

It is illegal for your employer to take an adverse action against you simply because you engaged in a protected activity. As explained by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), these types of cases are called workplace retaliation claims. A company or organization can be held legally liable for unlawfully retaliating against a worker.

You may be wondering: How do you prove workplace retaliation? After all, an employer might simply say that they are punishing you for a different reason. A legal concept known as ‘temporal proximity’ provides one potential answer. Here, you will find an overview of the key things to know about temporary proximity and workplace retaliation claims in Florida.

Temporal Proximity and Employment Law: Explained  

Unfortunately, employees face an inherent challenge when trying to prove retaliation. By definition, retaliation requires an assessment of an employer’s motives. Of course, this means that an employer that engaged in wrongful conduct has an incentive to try to conceal their true motives. They may even come up with pretextual (false) reasoning in order to hide illegal activity.

The employment law doctrine of temporal proximity allows employees to get an “inference of causation” if two events occur closely together in time. Closeness in time suggests a potential causal connection in a retaliation case. Put another way, the mere fact that you suffered an adverse employment action—perhaps, a termination—shortly after engaging in protected activity is itself a form of evidence that those two things are linked.

Understanding the Limits of Temporal Proximity in Florida

To best understand how temporal proximity works in retaliation claims in Florida, it is useful to consider a real world example. The 2017 case of Robin Tucker v. Florida Department of Transportation involved an employee who alleged that she was fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by her immediate supervisor. A significant part of her case was based on temporal proximity. In this case, the employee was terminated a few months after she states that she reported sexual harassment to the company.

The Florida court acknowledged the closeness in time as a meaningful form of evidence. However, in this case, the employer was able to present counterevidence demonstrating contemplation of the employee’s removal before any protected activities occurred. This is the key point to understand about temporal proximity in retaliation claims: It is an important form of evidence that can help to establish causation, but it is generally not sufficient to prove liability alone. Employees should build a comprehensive claim backed by as much relevant supporting evidence as possible. Even though temporal proximity is not conclusive proof, it is still persuasive in many workplace retaliation claims.

Get Help From an Employee Retaliation Lawyer in Florida

Workplace retaliation claims are notoriously complex. Temporal proximity may help to establish causation between your protected conduct and an adverse employment action. If you or your loved one was subject to unlawful workplace retaliation after engaging in protected activities, an experienced Florida employment law attorney can help.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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