Each of the 50 states has established at-will employment laws. What does this mean? It means employers can terminate a worker at any time and for any legally sound reason. On the other hand, employees can leave their jobs at any time, without giving their employers advanced notice.
The at-will employment principle does not mean your employer can fire you for an illegal reason, such as terminating an employment contract without just cause. If you feel your employer has wrongfully terminated you, contact an employment attorney to determine the best course of legal action.
What is Considered Wrongful Termination?
An act of wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires a worker for an illegal reason. Let’s look at a few of the most common types of wrongful termination.
According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, American workers receive legal protections against discrimination in several different environments, including the workplace. Your employer cannot terminate you because you belong to one or more protected classes as detailed under Title VII. Some of the protected classes under Title VII include race, gender, disability, and national origin. A separate law protects older workers against age discrimination. For example, an employer cannot terminate an older worker solely based on the reason of advancing age.
Some employers retaliate against workers by firing them. Retaliation comes in many forms, with retaliating against a whistleblower representing the most common type of retaliation. Firing a whistleblower is considered an act of wrongful termination, whether the whistleblower contacted law enforcement to report an unlawful activity or a whistleblower spoke with a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to report a safety violation in the workplace. Another type of retaliation is firing an employee because the employee filed a workers’ compensation claim.
Taking Extended Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants workers protected leave when they are sick, are about to have a baby, or need to take care of a family member. Workers can take up to 20 weeks per year of unpaid leave and they have the right to return to their jobs if their employers have more than 50 employees. Workers qualify for FMLA legal protection if they worked a job for at last one year and for a minimum of 1,250 hours.
One type of wrongful termination is not considered an overt act of terminating an employee. It involves sexual harassment or any other type of hostile work environment that forces a worker to quit. If you quit a job because of a hostile work environment, speak with an employment lawyer to determine whether you are a victim of an act of wrongful termination.
When Can I File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
If you believe your employer wrongfully terminated you, an employment lawyer can help you file a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages. Your lawyer gathers evidence such as your personnel file and the company employee handbook, as well as interviews witnesses to support your versions of events. Copies of your performance reviews also can help your employment lawyer determine whether your former employer committed an act of wrongful termination.
Your employment attorney can help you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a civil lawsuit before the expiration of the statute of limitations. Complete a Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected with an independent, participating attorney who subscribes to the website.