Wrongful termination is hard to prove because most employees are employed at will. This means most of the time while employed you and your employer are given the free will to decide when to start and finish employment and this can happen without giving a reason.
In this situation, there is no need for your employer to tell you why he or she is firing you and she or he can do so for any reason as long as it does not violate some laws which include discrimination, whistleblowing and for taking family or medical leave.
You may think this is unfair but it is down to you to prove you have been wrongly terminated and this can be a difficult process without the help of an experienced employment lawyer.
Reasons for Being Wrongfully Terminated
Three of the main reasons that an employee cannot be terminated are:
- taking family/medical leave.
Based on federal laws, an employer should not be able to terminate an employee due to any of the following reasons:
- Race: An employer is not allowed to terminate an employee based on his/her race.
- Gender:It is illegal to terminate someone for being a male or female. In some states including New York if you are fired for being transgender you may have the right to file for wrongful termination under transgender laws.
- Pregnancy: women who fall pregnant are protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and cannot be terminated for that reason alone.
- Age: An employer can technically fire someone for being too young, but not for being too old, as long asbeing old is over 40 as described in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
- Religion:Whether an employee is an atheist, evangelical Christian, or a Muslim their religious beliefs are protected and are not a reason that can be given for terminating an employee. For some religions, an employer may be expected to make some specific accommodations for that person in the workplace to enable the employer to perform better at his/her job.
- Disability: An employer cannot terminate an employee for being disabled and reasonable accommodation may be required for an employee with a disability.
The False Claims Act contains an anti-retaliation provision that makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who participate in whistleblowing against their employers.
Any employee who successfully proves a False Claims Act retaliation case is entitled to be reinstated, up to two times the amount of their back pay, interest on that back pay, special damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.
As well as the False Claims Act, there are several other federal and state laws which are specific to certain industries. These include provisions to protect whistleblowers from wrongful termination.
In most cases, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for his or her own medical treatment or that of a close family member.
Not every employee is covered but those who are employed by an employer which has 50 or more regular employees who work within 75 miles of each other are covered. Also, employees must have worked for at least one year for a total of at least 1,250 work hours in the year before to be eligible for coverage for medical or family leave.
Wrongful Termination Evidence
As soon as you have decided you have been wrongfully terminated you will need to gather as much supporting evidence as you can before you file your wrongful termination claim. Some of the evidence that is useful includes:
- proof of employment which might be an agreement you signed for your employer stating you are an at-will employee;
- your employee handbook and other paperwork related to your job;
- copies of good job performance appraisals which shows no good reason for termination;
- copies of pay stubs;
- statements from co-workers stating that the employer was breaking federal laws by terminating you.
How an Attorney Can Help With your Case
Having a professional employment law attorney can help you when wrongfully terminated. Before filing a wrongful termination claim the lawyer will have to assess the employers’ violation of the law. This is never easy as so many employers have at will agreements with their employees meaning there is typically no contract document present and in many cases no reason needs to be given when terminating an employee. The attorney will ensure that all the evidence is available before filing the wrongful termination claim.