Wrongful Termination in Washington

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Wrongful Termination in Washington

Washington is an "at-will" employment state. This means that absent an employment contract, the employment relationship is presumed to be "at-will." Subsequently, either employer or employee may terminate the work relationship so long as the reason for doing so is not illegal. Therefore, it can be somewhat challenging to determine who is at fault in an "at-will" termination.

Overcoming the "At-Will" Presumption

In the state of Washington, the at-will presumption may be overcome if the employer made clear and unambiguous statements of job security to the employee. This is best satisfied by a written employment contract that outlines termination procedures very clearly.

Grounds for Wrongful Termination

Even when the employment relationship is "at-will," there are certain exceptions that give rise to a wrongful termination claim. Washington employment laws provide "exceptions" that include:

    1. Firing a worker for refusing to participate in an illegal act
    2. Firing a worker for performing a public obligation (such as jury duty)
    3. Firing an employee who is exercising their legal rights (such as filing for workers’ compensation)
    4. Firing an employee who reports company misconduct (i.e. whistleblowing)

Each of these different categories may require a different standard of proof. For example, statutory violations will be analyzed according the statute in question. On the other hand, a breach of employment contract will likely depend on the individual contract terms. Most wrongful termination claims in Washington are based on discrimination or harassment.

Consulting an Attorney

Since some of these "at-will" wrongful termination exceptions may fall into more than one category, you may wish to consult with an employment attorney who can help organize your claim. Your attorney can help you recover losses, back pay, reinstatement to your previous job position, and other damages such as punitive and distress damages. A qualified Washington lawyer can provided you more information if there is a legal basis for a claim.

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Last Modified: 02-24-2014 02:40 PM PST

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