Wrongful Termination Lawyers
When is a Job Termination Wrongful?
The rules for whether an employee was improperly fired or terminated from their job vary by state. The majority of states follow the rules of "At Will" Employment, below.
"At Will" Employment
The majority of states today follow the rule that employment is "at the will" of either the employer or the employee, or "at will." "At will" means that an employer can fire an employee for any reason the employer sees fit, provided it is not for an improper reason (listed below). It does not make a difference whether the employee actually did anything wrong, or whether the employer misunderstood the facts of the situation. If the employee is "at-will," any reason, including no reason, is a proper basis for termination.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment Terminations
The following are some exceptions to when firing an at-will employee amounts to wrongful termination:
- Discrimination - The employer cannot terminate employment because the employee is a certain race, nationality, religion, sex, age, or in some states, sexual orientation.
- Retaliation - An employer cannot fire an employee because the employee filed a claim of discrimination or is participating in an investigation for discrimination. This "retaliation" is forbidden under civil rights law.
- Contractual Employees - Generally, an employee with an employment contract can only be terminated for the reasons stated in the contract. Employment contracts for specified periods of time or permitting terminations only for specific reasons are rare today.
- Illegal Acts - An employer is not permitted to fire an employee because the employee refuses to commit an act that is illegal.
- Family or Medical Leave - Federal law permits most employees to take a leave of absence for specific family or medical problems. An employer is not permitted to fire an employee who takes family or medical leave for a reason outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Not Following Own Termination Procedures - Often, the employee handbook or company policy outlines a procedure that must be followed before an employee is terminated. If the employer fires an employee without following this procedure, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination.
How Much Advance Notice of Job Termination is Required?
Unless the company policy or employee handbook states otherwise, employers are not typically required to give the employee any advance notice of job termination. Likewise, employees are not required to give their employers advance notice of leaving the company absent a contract or stated company policy.
Should You Hire an Wrongful Termination Attorney Experienced in Wrongful Terminations?
If you believe you may be fired, an attorney can help you investigate the reasons for the termination and gather appropriate documents. Also, if you feel that you have been fired for an illegal reason, such as discrimination, a lawyer likely will be needed. Many worker's rights and civil right's laws have detailed procedures and filing deadlines. An attorney can shepherd you through these procedures in order to get you the relief you seek. If you are an employer facing a wrongful termination lawsuit, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.
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Last Modified: 09-22-2011 11:53 AM PDT