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Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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Florida is a right to work state which means that a FL company

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Florida is a right to work state which means that a FL company can terminate an employee with or without cause. If a company is headquartered in Florida but has a few regional offices in other states, which state law governs the company's actions as to how they treat their employees? Can they treat their employees differently depending on the state law (whether that state is a right to work state or not)?

Also, this company has a documented Employee Handbook (that all employees are to sign a notice confirming to have read and agree to abide to policies), and the company has Equal Employment Opportunity obligations. If this company's Employee Handbook documents their process for performance evaluations that may include Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), and if an employee's job is terminated for cause and the employee did not get a performance evaluation nor was advised of any performance issues, nor was provided an opportunity to address/improve performance issues:
Being headquartered in FL and the employee reported to that FL location:
1) Is the company obligated to advise the employee the reasons for the job termination; 2) If the company did not follow their PIP policy, did they violate their own policy and subject the employee to possible wrongful termination; and
3) If they did violate their own PIP policy, does the Employee Handbook govern the company's action above the FL right to work policy? In other words, which law governs the FL company's practices, their Employee Handbook or the FL right to work law?

The first thing I have to do is to clarify that "right to work" has nothing to do with the situation that you are referring to. What you are referring to is "employment at will." "Right to work" has to do with mandatory union membership, so it is important to get the terms right. Florida is indeed an employment "at will" state as are most states. The law that governs an employer's actions is the law of the state where the employee works, not necessarily where the employer is headquartered unless the employee has an actual employment contract that was entered into in Florida.

The other issue you raised, the employer's policies regarding performance improvement plans and/or warnings prior to termination, does modify the employment "at will" doctrine for that employer. In other words, if the employer gives an employee more rights under their own policies then state law requires, they must comply with their own policies. Otherwise, they could face wrongful termination cause of action for terminating someone without following the steps they laid out in their policies.

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