Wrongful termination occurs when you are fired from your job for an illegal reason. These reasons can vary, but may be because you filed a claim against the company or that you were discriminated against for your race, religion, gender, etc. If you feel as though you were wrongfully terminated, you may have grounds to file a claim.
Examples of Wrongful Termination
There are many kinds of wrongful termination. You will need to provide supporting evidence to show that you did suffer from being wrongfully terminated.
While there are many kinds of wrongful termination, here are some of the more common causes:
- Age discrimination – this happens to those who are ages 40 or older and they are replaced by a younger worker to fit the company style or image
- Disability discrimination – employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers and cannot fire you because of a disability if you can do the job
- Sexual orientation discrimination – federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because of their sexual orientation
- Gender discrimination – it is prohibited by federal law to be discriminated against due to your gender identity
- Pregnancy/FMLA – you cannot be fired for becoming pregnant
- Racism/race discrimination – some employers continue to be race biased and employees for their skin color or ethnicity, which is illegal
- Religious discrimination – it is illegal to fire someone due to their religion or for accommodations that must be made for their religion
- Retaliation – you cannot be fired for filing a complaint about another matter or for being a whistleblower
If you believe you were fired for any of the reasons above, you may be a victim of wrongful termination and have grounds to file a claim.
"At-Will" Employment and Wrongful Termination
“At-Will” employment means that the employer or the employee can end employment at any time, without giving notice or giving a reason. If you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, your employer may allege that you were an “at-will” employee and that your termination wasn’t a violation of the law. In that case, you will have the task of proving that you were not an “at-will” employee and your termination was wrong.
There are important exceptions that allow you to file a lawsuit against your employer if you were wrongfully terminated. If you can demonstrate one of the following, you may be able to show you were not an "at-will" employee:
Written Promises: If you can provide contracts or written promises that state you have specific kinds of job security, you can build a strong argument indicating that you are not an at-will worker. As an example, if your employee contract only says you can be fired for certain reasons or with good cause, then the only way you can be terminated would be for those reasons. You should keep any contracts or written documents detailing your employment.
Implied Promises: Implied promises may also come into play. Implied contracts are agreements based on the things that your employer did or said. It can be difficult to prove that your employer made these statements, and most employers are cautious about making promises regarding continued employment.
There have been instances of implied contracts being found where employers promised that the employee would have permanent employment or would be working for a specific timeframe. This is also true if the employer set forth specific kinds of progressive discipline in the employee handbook.
The court will take several things into consideration when deciding if an implied employment contract is in existence and is applicable to this situation.
What To Do If You Think You Are Wrongfully Terminated
After your termination, remain calm and do not act yet. Avoid sending any angry emails to your boss about the termination. Do not do anything to retaliate against your former employer for being fired. Staying civil can help your wrongful termination in the future.
If you were not given a reason for why you were fired, try reaching out and asking why. You should also request your personal file to see if any comments or warnings were given leading up to the termination.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, you should start gathering evidence and supporting documentation. Evidence is essential to a successful claim. An employment law attorney will help you build your claim and gather the supporting evidence and documentation.
You have a limited time to pursue your claim, so make sure you get it on track before time runs out. You should enlist the help of a lawyer right away while the details are still fresh in your memory and the memories of coworkers and colleagues.
Evidence of Wrongful Termination
The evidence you will need to gather can vary depending on the reason you believe you were wrongfully terminated. Some documents that the court will review regardless of the reason for the termination include:
- your history of positive performance reviews,
- regularity of promotions,
- duration of your employment there,
- whether your employer violated usual employment practices by terminating you (failed to warn you or write you up),
- and whether promises of long-term employment were made when you were hired for the job.
Try to gather any other evidence that can prove your specific reason for wrongful termination. For example, if you believe you were fired as a form of retaliation for whistleblowing, keep copies of your complaint as well as the department’s response and a timeline of your complaint.
If you were wrongfully terminated as a form of discrimination, you should try to gather witness statements for conversation where derogatory comments were made as well as any email or text conversations between managers about your termination.
How A Wrongful Termination Lawyer Can Help
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, and especially if you think that laws have been broken when you were fired, you may have grounds for legal action. You will need to write a wrongful termination letter to your employer. To make sure you are on solid ground and that your rights are protected, you should enlist the help of an employment law attorney who handles wrongful termination cases.
Your attorney will help you gather the supporting evidence that you need to get your claim on track.
Your lawyer will speak with coworkers, go over employee documents, review contracts and new hire paperwork, read through the manual or handbook, and review everything in detail to determine if there is proof that you were not an at-will employee.
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