A vast majority of American employees follow the at-will employment doctrine, which means either an employer or an employee has the right to terminate the employment relationship without cause in most situations. For example, an employer has the right to end the employment relationship if the employer needs to reduce payroll costs to stay financially afloat.
On the other hand, an employee can quit a job to pursue a more lucrative job opportunity. However, there are scenarios in which laying off or terminating an employment relationship is considered an illegal firing.
How Am I Protected When I am Laid Off?
Although being laid off is different from getting fired, it often represents the first step of employment termination. An employer violates an employment law if it commits the following acts:
- Breaks a valid contract
- Violation of the WARN Act
Breaks a Valid Contract
Although most employees follow the at-will employment doctrine, any worker who is laid off or fired might receive legal protections if the worker has signed an employment contract. Working under an employment contract supersedes the legal power of the at-will employment doctrine.
Violation of the WARN Act
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers that initiate large layoffs to provide workers with advance notice of the layoffs. A violation of the WARN act allows workers to receive compensation for every day of notice they should have received for up to 60 days.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents discrimination in the workplace, which can be a factor that leads to an impacted employee being laid off. Your employer cannot discriminate against you in any way for demographic factors such as race, gender, and national origin, among many other factors.
Employers cannot commit an act of wrongful termination by retaliating against a worker for whistleblowing. For example, an employer cannot lay off a worker indefinitely for contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to report a safety violation in the workplace.
What to Do If I Was Illegally Laid Off?
If you are a victim of wrongful termination that includes being laid off indefinitely, you should contact the United States Department of Labor (DOL). As part of the DOL, the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigates all claims regarding wrongful termination. You also can contact an employment attorney who specializes in handling wrongful termination cases. A lawyer can apply pressure on your employer to bring you back to work or take steps to litigate your case by filing a civil lawsuit.
Proving your employer broker a state and/or federal employment law requires you to gather and organize evidence that demonstrates you are a victim of wrongful termination. Evidence can include copies of performance reviews, as well as documents that show your employer laid you off because of discriminatory reasons. Witness accounts of an illegal firing by first laying off a worker boost the strength of a wrongful termination claim.
Speak with a Wrongful Termination Lawyer
Even if is temporary, losing your job can lead to financial issues, which make it difficult to pay bills and take care of ordinary daily expenses. If you have lost your job temporarily or permanently and the job loss is the result of an illegal act of wrongful termination, a lawyer may be able to help. Complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected with an independent, participating attorney who subscribes to the website.