An illegal termination dispute may happen when a worker feels like they have been illegally fired by their boss and they decide to take action. A wrongful termination is any firing of an employee that breaks the law, which includes firing an employee due to their religion, gender, sex, race, and nationality.
Termination disputes can become difficult. It’s not uncommon for other employment factors to be at issue. Speaking with an experienced employment lawyer can help you figure out the major sticking points of your case so that you may go ahead as easily as possible.
Are There Any Tips for Resolving Unlawful Termination Cases?
Under normal circumstances, employees must file a claim with a government agency. Usually, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles a large majority of discrimination lawsuits.
Other claims may need to be resolved through legal action.
An employment lawyer can further provide you with advice and assist you in completing the necessary steps for compiling the necessary documents.
What Are the Legal Remedies for Wrongful Termination?
A variety of legal remedies may be awarded for an illegal firing. Rewards, also referred to as damages, can include lost wages, attorneys fees, court costs, severance pay, and lost benefits. The employer may also be ordered by the court to restore the employee to the position from which they were terminated. The court will also look at the businesses’ workplace practices and guidelines and may require the employer to change them.
If the employee does not want to return to their former position, they have no obligation to do so. If the employee was set to be given a promotion just before the wrongful termination, then they may be allowed to return but to a higher position. If the employee refuses to work for the employer after the lawsuit in any capacity, the employer may be ordered by the court to provide compensation.
At-Will Employment and Its Limitations
The most standard form of employment is called at-will employment. At-will employment means that the employer may terminate the employment. Employers don’t have to have a good or fair reason for such termination, nor do they need to provide advance warning or fair procedures for their employees. In every US state but Montana, the law presumes that employment is at-will unless there is evidence to the contrary, such as an employment contract allowing for-cause termination only.
However, many exceptions exist to at-will termination. At-will employment does not permit an employer to fire an employee in violation or breach of the workers’ contract.
Likewise, an employer may not fire an employee for discriminatory reasons that are prohibited by local, state, or federal laws. As well, employers can’t fire a worker in retaliation for the worker reporting illegal activity such as hour and wage violations. Firing a worker for such reasons would be illegal and meet the standard for wrongful termination.
What Is Discriminatory Firing?
One of the most widely known forms of wrongful termination is terminating an employee based on discriminatory grounds such as their race instead of their job performance. Federal law protects employees from being terminated or penalized for certain discriminatory reasons.
Firing a worker based on their race, the color of their skin, national origin, sex, gender, religious beliefs, disability, pregnancy, or age, clearly meets the definition of wrongful termination. Several states and local governments also prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Workers who have been terminated or penalized for a discriminatory reason may file a lawsuit for discrimination with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employees may also file a charge of discrimination lawsuit with the state or a local anti-discrimination agency.
Workers who have been wrongfully terminated for discriminatory reasons should act as soon as possible. Generally, wrongful termination claims are subject to strict time limits known as statutes of limitation and must be made before further legal action can be taken.
What Is Retaliation?
Employers can’t terminate or punish workers for engaging in certain protected activities in the workplace. Activities which a worker cannot be fired for include telling an employer about harassment or discrimination, filing a complaint with the EEOC, taking permitted medical leave, or participating in an investigation of wage and hour violations.
Many whistleblower statutes safeguard workers who report illegal or harmful activities by employers, such as violations of environmental laws or safety regulations.
What Are Contractual Obligations?
If you’ve signed an employment contract, your employer is bound by law to adhere to those terms. Even if you haven’t signed an employment contract, your employer may still be obligated to honor a verbal promise known as an implied contract.
For instance, say you signed a contract outlining that you’ll perform certain job duties for the employer for a minimum of 12 months. At the end of that time period, the employer will decide whether to retain you at your job for longer. If you are fired before 12 months, you may be able to file a wrongful termination action lawsuit and a breach of contract claim.
What Are Whistleblower Retaliation Claims?
Depending on the laws of your state, you may be protected against employer retaliation if you report an illegal or unethical action by your employer to the proper government agency. Some laws only protect public employees.
For instance, a teacher who blows the whistle on a school districts’ illegal or wasteful spending or unsafe and unsanitary school conditions cannot be terminated as retaliation under whistleblower statutes that protect public employees, such as teachers.
What Is Retaliation for Failing to Perform Illegal Acts?
Similar to whistleblower protections, employers may not demand employees to perform illegal acts or knowingly require workers to disregard safety regulations and guidelines.
If you refuse to work a double shift at your job because you know that it violates wage and hour laws and are subsequently fired for this action, you may file a retaliation claim and a wrongful discharge lawsuit.
What Is Protected Time Off?
Federal laws and some state laws, particularly the Family and Medical Leave Act, permit some employees to go on unpaid leave to take care of a family member or recover from an illness themselves. The Family and Medical Leave Act covers military service members who are called into active duty. Employees may also not be fired or retaliated against for taking time off work to vote or serve on jury duty.
What Are Disciplinary and Termination Policies?
Even in states with at-will employment laws, employers must follow any written policy for disciplinary guidelines and firings. These procedures are often found in an employee handbook.
To illustrate, a written policy that employees get two strikes for being late to work before they’re terminated must be followed by the employer. An employee who was fired after just one warning may have a valid claim for wrongful termination.
What Are Claim Procedure Considerations to Think About?
Even if you have every right to think that your termination was illegal, whether it involves discrimination or retaliation, you still may not be able to file a civil claim right off the bat.
Most federal complaints must first be filed as charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. State laws also have similar requirements. Check your local state laws for more information on claim procedure considerations.
What Damages Are Available in Wrongful Discharge Claims?
Depending on the scenario and the circumstances surrounding your firing, damages are available to wrongfully discharged employees.
These damages can include back pay, promotions, job reinstatement, front pay, compensatory damages, reasonable accommodations, injunctive relief, attorneys fees, and punitive damages.
Should I Hire an Attorney to Help With My Unlawful Termination Case?
If you’re in the middle of an unlawful termination dispute and wish to resolve it, contact a discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.
As mentioned in this article, wrongful termination cases can involve several moving factors that may complicate your lawsuit. Having an experienced attorney on your side can help reduce the stress of going to court. Your lawyer will help you, give you peace of mind, and provide legal advice. Your attorney will also represent you and your best interest moving forward in your case.