Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Monday night in Lake City - Employee "at will"
A bad policy for employees and the City

Monday night, November 15th at 07:00 pm, the city will discuss implementing its new Personnel Policy Manual. Everything good and every progressive rule included in the manual is made meaningless by these two words, “at will.” This is a one sided manual, which still makes it possible for the City to ask an employee to commit perjury and if they don’t, be fired.

The United States is the only country in the industrialized world that provides no protection against wrongful termination of employment.

Florida is among only a handful of states that provides no caveats against arbitrary, abusive or wrongful termination of employment.

In the US, employees without a written employment contract generally can be fired for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all. Florida is an "employment at will" state. This means an employee in Florida can be fired -- "because." In Florida, it is established law that no reason has to be given. An employee can be fired because his employer invokes the "Feagle feel like it principle" and just says, "You're outta here."

There are generally three exceptions to at will employment: 1. A public policy exception. This would violate a public policy of the State, such as a law to protect policemen. 2.  An implied contract exception. An example of this is an employee handbook. 3. A covenant of good faith and fair dealing. This means that termination made in bad faith or motivated by malice are prohibited [Shane and Rosenthal, Employment Law Deskbook, § 16.03[8]].

Three Jim Crow states don't recognize exceptions

Some or all of the three exceptions to "at will" employment are recognized by forty six states. Three of the Jim Crow states, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as Rhode Island don't recognize any of the exceptions.

The Rudolph Davis affair, previously reported in the Observer, has brought to the forefront the fact that almost any employee that works for Lake City, or Columbia County, can be fired at anytime for no reason. This does not include some contract employees, such as the county manager, city manager and city police chief.

Mr. Davis worked for Lake City for 19.5 years and was terminated for no reason. The City has what it calls reasons, which it could voluntarily release, but it is not talking.

The Court and the Legislature

Many courts have argued that an exception to "at will" employment is best not left to judges, but to the legislatures "after the public has had its opportunity to communicate its views."

The local legislature of Lake City is the Lake City Council. It has the power to make local laws, which are called ordinances. These ordinances are enacted after the people have been heard.

The City Council has the power to move into the 21st century and make the Lake City Personal Policy Manual binding on both management and employees.

The people of Lake City have the right to demand and be heard regarding a local ordinance that protects city employees, their neighbors, from arbitrary, abusive or wrongful termination of employment.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On November 14, 2010  R.B. from Lake City wrote:

       Do you really want employers restricted from terminating employees as needed? That would be the most ridiculous one sided policy ever. Are employees restricted from quitting a job? Absolutely not.

      Employers spend time and money to hire, insure, and train employees, only to have them leave on their own free will. Why should the employer not have the right to terminate employment as well.

      You cite the Davis termination from the city. For years, it appears Mr. Davis was in the face, so to speak, of the powers to be from the City of Lake City. I don't know how many articles I've read about Mr. Davis challenging the city on policy issues, or complaints to the EEOC.

      In my opinion, Mr. Davis needlessly played the race card one too many times and got exactly what he deserved.

      I don't want the U.S. turning into a nation like most of Europe, where the government lays out policy for private employers. And government employers should not have any more restrictions placed on them than the private sector. Whatever happened to the old theory of "a day's work for a day's pay?"

       That is one of the major problems in our society today - too many people wanting something for nothing. If it's worth having, it's worth working for.    

      There are too many jobs available today that people will not take because they can get to much for free from the government. In time of need, people used to depend on family, and families were very close, but now the government has filled one of the roles of the family unit by handing out too much, thereby contributing to the destruction of the family unit. ¶  R.B.


On January 3, 2011  TNG of Branford wrote:

      I was a business owner and employer of hundreds of employees for many years.  Over time I had to terminate several employees because of poor attitudes and work ethics, incompetence and for cause: theft, etc. 

       As a business, my main goal was to make a profit and having employees that cannot help in making a profit must go.  That is simple, but as far as government employees, in particular Florida County employees, it is very difficult to gauge daily production and output.  There are no balance sheets or a concern to make a profit.  So the employer has little objectivity in evaluating an employee’s worth to the organization. 

      Especially in the small counties like Suwannee, Madison and Taylor the good old boy network is alive and well. An employee is gauged more so to the social needs of the club and the main purpose of the club is to ensure the reelection of the county official they work under.

       The article stated: "This is a one sided manual, which still makes it possible for the City to ask an employee to commit perjury and if they don’t, be fired." This is a fact and flies in the face of ethics and fairness.

The Sheriff’s Office in most of these counties probably abuse the peoples trust more than any other county government entity.  Deputies are sworn to uphold the law and Constitution, but there have been countless reports (of course behind closed doors in fear of retaliation and termination) where the Sheriff intervenes in cases where politics is an issue.

      If the deputy complains, he or she will be fired.  This bending of the rules and disregard for the law is not only an insult to the deputy trying to do his or her job while being fair and impartial, it is a travesty for every citizen in the county who doesn’t get the same political break.

      The smaller northern Florida counties are plagued with a concept and attitude sustaining the status quo: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. We always did it this way. It's a grey area, just ignore it.

        Many of the elected officials are there because of their position with the county, such as a family name that goes back to Jefferson Davis, or they are the heirs to acres and acres of agriculture land.

      They are the ones who sit around the diners at breakfast and talk about rhetorical redneck gossip and superfluous anecdotal myths and stories that are told in repetitive nauseating sequence that portrays them as blatant idiots.

      These are the elected officials who hold the life of an employee in their hands.  Their motivation is not the same as a business owner. They act and react on a personal basis in order to protect their image within the ever so dysfunctional society or ring they belong. 

      Every constituent should ensure that there are fair policy and procedures controlling the hiring and firing of county employees.

TGN, Branford


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