Most waged employees are employed under at-will employment conditions. This means that an employer can fire a worker for almost any reason and at any time. The same right belongs to the at-will employee, who can leave their job without giving notice.
There are some limits to an employer’s right to terminate an employee whenever and however they like. Employers cannot terminate an employee simply because of their gender, race, age, ethnicity or religious affiliation unless as an individual they can no longer do their job. This would be considered wrongful termination as it is a breach of both federal and state anti-discrimination laws. In the event that an employee is wrongfully terminated because they belong to a “protected class” they may have grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer.
Other reasons why an employee may be wrongfully terminated are when they have been fired because:
- they have exposed an illegal act by their employer (whistleblowing);
- they have initiated a claim for workers’ compensation or applied for medical leave under the FMLA.
Below are three things you should ask yourself before filing a claim against your employer.
Do I Have a Claim?
You only have a right to make a claim if your employer has broken an employment law. Make sure you understand which law has been broken and why you allege that your employer has broken that law. You may find it useful to discuss your complaint with an employment lawyer to ensure you do have grounds to file a claim.
Did My Employer Warn Me Before my Termination?
An employer may argue that you were warned of your actions as an employee before you were terminated and that you did not respond to the warning. This may be an attempt to divert from your claim that they broke an employment law. As an at-will employee, your employer has the right to fire you for any reason, including not doing your job properly. But they do not have the right to fire you if doing so breaks a law. This is where your notes of what led to the termination will come in useful. Did your employer warn you about your work habits? Can you show that there was no other reason for firing you but because of discrimination or other illegal reason as has been described above.?
What Loss Have I Suffered?
You may be able to claim compensation for being wrongfully terminated. If your claim has been investigated by a federal or state agency such as the EEOC, they will assess your losses in financial terms, such as back pay not paid, expenses involved in finding another job as well as possible restoration of employment. If the employer is found to have broken a law, then they may also be fined or face other penalties as a result of their breach of employment law.
It can be challenging to file a claim against an employer for wrongful termination. You need to be aware of your legal rights and have sufficient evidence to back up your claim. It is advisable to have legal help from an experience employment lawyer if you do decide to go ahead and file a claim for wrongful termination.