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Unfair Termination: What is Unfair?

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Can I Sue for Unfair Termination?

Unfair termination is a different name for wrongful termination, which occurs when an employee is fired illegally. Although many employees are "at-will" employees and can be fired or terminated at any time without cause, there are some important exceptions where an employee cannot be wrongfully terminated.

What's the Difference between a At-Will Employee vs. Just Cause Employment?

The type of employment determines how and for what reasons an employer can fire an employee. There are two general types of employment: “at-will” and “just cause.”

  • At-Will Employee: At-will employment means that an employee can quit at any time, but the employer can also fire the employee at any time and for any legal reason (or no reason at all).
  • Just Cause Employment: Just cause employment usually requires terms that provide a guarantee to the employee that they will only be fired if there is a good reason. The just-cause provision does not necessarily have to be within an employee’s employment contract. Often this protection exists provided that just-cause firings are demanded according to company policy (e.g. in the employee manual).

Exceptions to Firing At-Will Employees

At-will employees can generally be fired for any legal reason, however, there are several illegal justifications for firing an employee that can give cause for a wrongful termination lawsuit:

  • Discrimination: Employers cannot fire an employee based on race, nationality, color, religion, gender, age, or disability. Employers can lawfully terminate employees for other reasons, so long as it is applied equally to all employees.
  • Retaliation: An employer cannot terminate employees for reporting to federal or state agencies about employment law violations.
  • Illegal Acts: An employer cannot fire an employee if the employee refuses to perform an illegal act.
  • Family or Medical Leave: Employers cannot fire an employee who takes time off for reasons listed in the Family and Medical Leave Act.

What is Constructive Dismissal?

An employer cannot use tools such as demotion, harassment, unjustified pay cuts, or poor working conditions to force you to quit a job. If these actions are unjustified, or motivated by the illegal justifications listed above, this could give rise to a wrongful termination action.

What If My Employer Breached My Employment Contract?

An employee who has been terminated in breach of an employment contract may bring a claim for breach of contract against the employer. Even some at-will employees can bring a claim against an employee who has given an employee an implied employment contract. An implied employment contract exists when the employer through his words or actions promises continued employment to the employee and the employee relies on this promise.

How Can a Lawyer Help You?

If you suspect that your employer had terminated you unfairly, you should contact and experienced employment attorney. A skilled attorney can help you evaluate the terms of your employment and termination to determine if you have a claim for wrongful termination. In addition, an employment attorney can interview witnesses, gather evidence, negotiate with your former employer on your behalf, and represent you in court.

Photo of page author John Kirby

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 10-17-2017 12:07 PM PDT

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