Law of Unfair Termination
Unfair termination is a broad legal category, which includes the more common legal term “wrongful termination.” Wrongful termination, in its narrowest sense, means when the employer, in firing the employee, has committed a private wrong, called a “tort.” Employers who fire their employees in an abusive manner can be liable for defamation, interference with economically advantageous relationships, or breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
For example, there was a case where a restaurant manager wanted to find out who stole something. So he lined up waitresses and began firing them alphabetically until someone confessed. The employer was found liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The law of unfair termination also deals with “at will” and “just cause” employment. The majority of employees nowadays work at will. This means the employee can quit at any time, and the employer can fire at any time, for any reason or no reason at all.
However, a worker with a “just cause” clause written into their contract or their employment manual cannot be fired, except if the employer has a good reason for doing so. Also, firing a contracted employee before their contract is up constitutes unfair termination.
Other types of unfair termination include firing in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits firing based on a person’s sex, race, color, national origin, or religion. Unfair termination can be when the employer fires in violation of public policy, such as an employee who has reported health and safety violations. Unfair termination may also include breach of an implied contract, such as when a fired employee has worked for 30 or 40 years for an employer.
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Last Modified: 09-16-2013 10:51 AM PDT
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