So, you got the job, have worked hard, and are living the dream. But then, without warning, you receive a notice of termination from your employer. How could that be? Whether you are given ample time for transition, or instantly find your way out of the office with your box of possessions, losing your job is a stressful situation.
It will feel even worse when you begin asking questions about why they are letting you go.
Did you do something wrong? Have you offended the upper management? You wonder if your termination was fair, or could it be a wrongful termination? If you suspect the latter, can you take legal action against your ex-employer?
Wrongful termination involves an employee who is forced from their profession for illegal reasons, or if the company policy has been violated upon termination of the employee. Do employees who have been wrongly terminated from work have redress?
In most cases, employees accept job offers at their own will, unless there are contracts or agreements involved. This means that neither the employee nor the employer needs a rationale for terminating the working relationship. So, what instances are considered illegal or wrongful termination?
Employees in most states are assumed to be “at will,” which means employers do not need grounds to terminate them as long as the reasons are not illegal. However, if you signed a contract of employment, make sure you read it. The employment contract might declare that your employment may only be terminated “for cause.” The “cause” here refers to the contract or state law and may include issues such as willful misconduct, disclosing confidential company matters, or persistent failure in performing employment tasks or duties.
Even without a formal contract or agreement, employment policies or procedures are enough to generate a “for cause” employment contract. The “cause” and imposition of the contracts may differ from state to state. So, it is best to consult an attorney about your employment rights.
The National Labor Relations Act states that is wrongful to terminate employees for engaging in conversations with co-workers about better methods in improving working conditions or wages. This conversation is also called “protected concerted activity.”
You do not have to be a union member to be protected by this law. If you have been terminated because of protected concerted activity, you may sue your employer. On another note, be aware that this law does not certainly protect you from complaining or “venting” to a co-worker about your employer.
If you were a witness to inappropriate work behavior or activity and reported what you saw, and got terminated in response, then you may sue for wrongful termination. Employment laws exist to protect employees who make statements about illegal conduct at work. In layman’s term, employers cannot terminate “whistleblowers.”
Terminating employees based on discrimination is still regrettably apparent in the 21st century. Some employers continue to fire employees due to their gender, sexuality, race, or citizenship status – and that is wrongful termination. Some state laws protect LGBT employees, including pregnant women.
Unlawful discrimination may give rise to discrimination charges or private lawsuits.
Congress ratified the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) which prohibits employers from utilizing genetic information when constructing employment decisions. Further, an employer who terminates an employee based on their genetic information, however the information was acquired, will face penalties and retributions from the federal government.
If you have been wrongly terminated from work, you have the right to sue for wrongful termination against your employer. The process can be a bit tedious, but there are things you can do to help the process go more smoothly:
- Determine your case
If you were wrongly terminated due to the instances mentioned earlier, then you may sue for wrongful termination against your employer.
- Create a written account
Make a document or written account of your termination. Start with any documents or notices you received from your former employer. Written documents will help your lawyer review the case and decide how to proceed.
Begin by collecting all documents during your exit interview, and also any correspondence you have between you and your former employer after the termination. In addition, take into account the nature of your work and how you were terminated. Writing these down will help you recall the details you may have forgotten while consulting the case with your lawyer.
- Hiring your lawyer
You may claim a civil suit against your employer, but a lawyer can make the process more effective and sophisticated. Thus, hire a lawyer who specializes in wrongful termination lawsuits and possesses an impressive track record. You may contact a few attorneys until you discover the right lawyer you can trust and feel comfortable working with. He/She can walk you through the whole legal process.
Being involved in a wrongful termination situation can be stressful to deal with. But, what you can do is file a wrongful termination lawsuit and proceed against your former employer in court.
Author’s Bio: Timothy Garret is a budding law writer who enjoys all aspect of the law industry. He’s currently studying to become a lawyer and is applying his law knowledge into what he writes about. He spends time with his friends and swimming in his spare time.