There are many ways that you could be fired from a job that would be considered illegal termination. This means that you can file legal action against your employer because of their actions. As an example, if you are a whistleblower and report wrongdoing that the company or its officials have done, then they cannot fire you without probable cause. They cannot retaliate against you and fire you because of that.
If your firing is because of discrimination, that is also illegal. You cannot be discriminated against because of your gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. However, to succeed with your claim against your employer for discriminating against you, you will have to provide supporting evidence of the discrimination.
You need to be familiar with the laws regarding what is legal termination and what is not legal termination.
Types of Illegal Firing
There are many kinds of illegal firings or job terminations. It could be because of discrimination or retaliation against a whistleblower. To prove that your firing was illegal, you will need to provide supporting documentation that shows you were mistreated by your employer and that you were fired illegally and there wasn’t probable cause for your dismissal. Many states use a right to work approach, which means you could be fired for basically any reason. But you are protected by laws that prohibit mistreatment.
Federal law makes it illegal for most employers to fire workers for many reasons, specifically national origin, gender, race, disability, ethnic background, religion, or their age if they are 40 or older. Also, most employers are prohibited from firing someone because of pregnancy or medical issue related to pregnancy or childbirth. Some states offer additional protection from mistreatment because of marital status or sexual orientation, but that can vary from one state to another.
Even if you weren’t fired because of underlying discrimination, you may be able to pursue a retaliation claim. If an employee believes that he or she was terminated because he or she was denied a promotion because of their gender or race, and they lose that discrimination claim but then they are fired for filing the complaint, then there could be a claim brought for wrongful firing because of retaliation.
There are other reasons that you cannot be fired. As an example, if your employer wants you to take a lie detector test and you decline, you have protections. The Federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits most employers from firing workers for declining such tests. You cannot be fired for complaining about OSHA violations or your alien status just so long as you can legally work in the U.S.
Breaches of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
While most employment is “at will” and an employee for being fired at any time and for no reason, there are exceptions. As an example, there could be breaches of good faith or fair dealing. If you have a promise of job security, or a written contract, you have a strong argument that you are not an employee “at will.” You may even have a written contract that says you can only be fired for the specific reasons that are indicated in your work agreement.
Sometimes there is an implied employment contract, which is an agreement based on what was said and done by the employer. This can be another exception to the termination at will rule. Sometimes wage theft comes into play. An employer cannot fire you because they want to get out of paying your commission.
Wage theft often plays a role in illegal firing. If you report your employer for failing to properly pay you, such as shorting your paycheck, failing to pay overtime, or making you work during breaks, they cannot retaliate and fire you. If they do, they have committed a crime.
It is illegal to violate public policy when firing a worker, which means to fire them for reasons that society in general considers as illegitimate grounds for parting ways. As an example, firing you because you disclosed the company’s practice for refusing to pay employees accrued vacation pay and commissions that they have earned.
You cannot be fired for taking time off for jury duty, which is court-ordered. Other reasons that you cannot be fired are for serving in the military reserves or National Guard or for taking time off to go vote in an election. There are some state laws that may offer additional protection, such as allowing you to be off work if you serve as a volunteer firefighter or as an election officer.