Wrongful termination, or unlawful termination, occurs when an employer fires an employee for an illegal or unauthorized reason. Wrongful termination falls under the umbrella of employment law.
Illegal or unauthorized reasons may include:
- Discrimination based on:
- religion; and
- other categories;
- Retaliation; and
- The failure to follow proper termination policies.
Illegal or unauthorized reasons may also include those that:
- Violate local, state, or federal laws;
- Go against public policy; or
- Breach the terms of an employment agreement.
Wrongful termination may also occur if an employer fires an employee who refused to obey work instructions that are illegal. This may include an unlawful activity, such as not following safety regulations for a specific job task or asking the employee to commit a more serious crime, such as a felony offense, for example, larceny or tax evasion.
An employee may also be terminated unlawfully when their employer ignores the company policies regarding the termination process. For example, if the employer did not follow the proper protocols when they were releasing the employee from the job position.
It is important to note that if an employer terminates an employee in a manner that is illegal, they may face legal consequences for those actions. Employers may be required to compensate the terminated employee, which may include:
- Having to reimburse the employee in back pay;
- Reinstating the employee to their previous position;
- Paying the employee monetary compensation for a certain reason; or
- Various other forms of relief.
Unlawful termination is frequently associated with certain legal issues, including:
- Retaliatory discharge: This happens when an employer terminates an employee because they filed a complaint against the company, otherwise known as a whistleblower;
- Some examples of protected activities may include:
- Reporting harassment or discrimination in the workplace;
- Leaving work for public policy reasons, such as attending mandatory jury duty;
- Filing a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC); or
- Participating in mandatory investigations, for example, wage violations or other lawsuits;
- Some examples of protected activities may include:
- Discrimination: Termination may be considered unlawful when it is done for a discriminatory reason;
- For example, if an employer only fires workers who are older than a certain age, there may be grounds for a claim of wrongful termination;
- Breach of contract: If terminating the employee breaches the terms of their employment contract, it may be considered unlawful;
- Leave: Under both state and federal laws, an employee cannot be fired for taking a valid family, medical, or personal leave of absence; and
- Fraud: An employee is fired for reasons associated with fraud; specifically, for fraudulent concealment. In the context of employment law, fraudulent concealment refers to when an employer intentionally misleads an employee regarding the tasks required for a job.
What Is Jury Duty?
When an individual is arrested and charged with a crime, they have the right to a trial by jury. In order to ensure that these defendants have their case properly reviewed in court, citizens may be obligated to serve on a jury.
In the majority of jurisdictions, citizens may be obligated to serve on a jury once a year. This does not always mean that an individual will be called to a jury or seated on a jury every year.
It simply means that an individual may have an obligation to show up in court in the event that they are called or summoned. Typically, an individual will be summoned to a court that is near their residence.
When an individual is summoned to serve on a jury, it is called jury duty. A jury is a body of citizens, typically 12 individuals, who are responsible for listening to the case.
The jury will determine the guilt or liability of a defendant. Jury duty is mandatory, unless a juror is excused from serving on the jury by the court due to a valid reason or if their services are not needed.
What Are My Employment Rights When I Serve on a Jury?
If an individual is summoned to service on a jury, their employer is required to allow them to serve as long as they provide notice to their employer that they will be serving. An employer, in general, is not required to pay an individual their regular wages for days they miss due to jury duty.
An individual may be paid a small monetary amount each day from the court for serving on a jury. If an individual’s occupation or compensation makes it financially difficult for them to serve on a jury, the court may dismiss them based on hardship.
How Can a Juror Miss Jury Duty?
If an individual is called for jury duty, they have a duty to report to the court at the time and place that is indicated on the jury summons. A jury summons is sent by mail.
An individual may miss jury duty, generally, in two ways, including:
- Failing to respond to a jury summons: An individual must usually call the court when they receive the summons to confirm whether they need to show up;
- The call is usually made the day or night before the date of jury duty; or
- Failing to show up for jury duty: An individual may respond to the jury duty summons, but still fail to show up the following morning to report at the court.
Both of these actions are considered violations and may result in serious consequences for the individual who is summoned. Therefore, an individual should do their best to respond to the jury summons as soon as possible and show up to court the next day if they are required to do so.
Missing jury duty may result in different consequences or punishments. The consequences for missing jury duty will depend on whether the court finds the individual in contempt of court.
Contempt of court occurs if an individual defies, disrespects, or impedes the court’s authority or ability to perform its duties. Contempt of court may be civil or criminal.
In general, missing jury duty is classified as civil contempt. The penalties for contempt of court for missing jury duty may include:
- Fines, sometimes up to $1,000; or
- Jail time, typically a maximum of 5 days.
The punishments will vary and depend on local and state laws, in addition to the nature of the way in which the individual missed jury duty. For example, if the individual intentionally deceived the court in order to miss jury duty, the penalties may be more severe.
Can an Employee Be Fired for Serving Jury Duty?
No, an individual cannot be fired for jury duty. As noted above, if an individual fails to appear for jury duty can be found in contempt of court and subject to contempt of court and be subject to fines and jail time.
For public policy reasons, an employer is not permitted to fire an at-will employee who has been called to serve on jury duty. If this were not the case, the whole judicial system would be compromised.
If an individual was fired for serving on a jury, they may be a victim of wrongful termination.
Can I Sue My Employer for Being Wrongfully Terminated?
If an individual was wrongfully terminated for reasons that involve discrimination, the employee is required to file a complaint with the EEOC. An individual may submit a claim on the EEOC website, by phone, or at a local EEOC office.
The EEOC will investigate the claim and determine whether or not to file a lawsuit against the employer. If the EEOC does not file a claim, it will notify the terminated employee of their right to file their own lawsuit in a court of law.
If a claim does not involve allegations of discrimination, an individual is not required to start at the EEOC. If an individual has been wrongfully terminated based on a reason that does not involve discrimination may proceed directly to civil court and file a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
Should I Hire a Lawyer If I Was Fired for Serving on a Jury?
Your employer cannot terminate you for serving on a jury. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated for serving on a jury, it is important to consult with a wrongful termination lawyer.
Your lawyer can assist you with filing a lawsuit against your employer as well as collect any compensation for listing your employment.