Unlawful termination in Washington state, also known as illegal termination, happens when an employer fires an employee for reasons that violate state or federal laws, public policy, or the terms of their employment contract.
Since Washington is an at-will employment state, companies may fire workers for any reason as long as it doesn’t break any laws or public policy. Nonetheless, the at-will employment provision has numerous exceptions that safeguard workers from unjust termination.
Examples of wrongful termination in Washington state include:
- Firing an employee in retaliation for exercising their legal rights, such as filing a complaint with a government agency or taking medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Firing an employee in violation of an employment contract.
Discrimination based on protected characteristics like race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disability is prohibited under Washington state termination laws.
Under Washington state termination laws, employees who report workplace breaches, including safety hazards or criminal activity, are likewise protected from retribution by their employers.
Employers must also offer precise notifications and compensation to workers upon termination and follow particular protocols when firing employees for misbehavior or poor performance.
Generally, if a Washington employer fires an employee for reasons that violate state or federal laws, public policy, or an employment contract, the employee may have legal grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
How Can I Overcome the “At-Will” Presumption in Washington?
In Washington state, “at-will” employment is a presumption that either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship at any time and for any reason unless there is a contract or a special statute that specifies otherwise.
This implies that, in the context of wrongful termination, an employer may lawfully fire an employee without stating a reason or cause as long as the rationale is not discriminatory or otherwise illegal. But, if an employee can demonstrate that they were dismissed for an unlawful cause or in breach of a contract, they may be able to overcome the at-will assumption and pursue a wrongful termination claim.
An employee might collect evidence showing their discharge was motivated by illegal discrimination, retribution, or a violation of contract to overcome the at-will assumption in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
For example, if an employee was dismissed immediately after reporting unlawful activities at work or taking protected leave under the FMLA, they may have a wrongful termination claim based on retaliation.
Similarly, suppose an employee can demonstrate that their termination violated the provisions of an employment contract, such as a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment contract. In that case, they may be entitled to file a breach of contract lawsuit.
A Seattle wrongful termination lawyer may assist an employee in navigating the complexity of wrongful termination in Washington, assessing the strength of their claim, and gathering evidence to support their case. An attorney may also represent the employee in court or administrative processes and negotiate with the employer or their legal counsel.
What Are Some Grounds for Wrongful Termination in Washington?
Termination in violation of anti-discrimination statutes, termination in reprisal for participating in protected behavior, and termination in breach of an employment contract are all grounds for wrongful termination in Washington. Below are a few examples of wrongful termination in Washington:
- Discrimination: It is illegal to fire an employee based on their race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, handicap, or another protected status. If an employee can demonstrate that their termination was motivated by discrimination based on one of these protected traits, they may be able to file a wrongful termination claim.
- Retaliation: It is unlawful to fire an employee for participating in protected conduct, such as reporting illegal activities in the workplace, submitting a complaint with a government agency, or taking Family and Medical Leave Act-protected leave. If an employee can demonstrate that their termination was motivated by retribution for participating in one of these protected actions, they may be able to file a wrongful termination claim.
- Violation of employment contract: Employees may have a claim for breach of contract and wrongful termination if their employer dismisses them in violation of the provisions of their employment contract, such as a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment contract.
Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Claim in Washington?
A Seattle wrongful termination attorney can help you assess if you have a wrongful termination claim in Washington. In general, you may be able to file a claim if you were fired in violation of anti-discrimination statutes, as retribution for participating in protected behavior, or in breach of an employment contract.
An attorney can assist you in determining the strength of your claim, gathering evidence to support your case, and deciding on the best legal approach for pursuing your claim. They may also guide you through the filing procedures and deadlines for submitting a claim to the proper administrative agency or court. Overall, an experienced wrongful termination lawyer can assist you in protecting your rights and advocating for your best interests throughout the legal process.
What Available Remedies are There for My Wrongful Termination?
If you were unlawfully terminated in Washington, you might be entitled to pursue a number of remedies. The facts of your case and the nature of the wrongful termination will determine the possible remedies. These are some examples of popular remedies:
- Reinstatement: If you were wrongly dismissed, you might be entitled to reinstatement, which implies that your employer must rehire you and provide you with the same or comparable work to which you were previously employed.
- Back pay: If you were unlawfully dismissed, you may be entitled to compensation for the salary and benefits you would have received if you had not been terminated.
- Front pay: If reinstatement is not possible, you may be entitled to front pay, which is compensation for the earnings and benefits you would have received if you had not been fired.
- Punitive damages: In certain situations, you may be entitled to punitive damages, which are meant to penalize the employer for their improper behavior and discourage others from participating in similar behavior in the future.
- Attorney’s fees and costs: If you win a wrongful termination action, you may be able to recoup your legal fees and expenses.
It is crucial to remember that the potential wrongful termination remedies in Washington may differ based on the facts of your case. Speaking with a Seattle wrongful termination lawyer may help you understand your legal rights and choices for seeking a wrongful termination remedy.
Should I Consult an Attorney?
If you suspect you have been unlawfully dismissed in Washington, you should consult with an experienced wrongful termination attorney as quickly as possible to safeguard your legal rights and explore your options for pursuing restitution.
A Seattle wrongful termination attorney can assist you in navigating the complexity of Washington employment law, assessing the strength of your claim, and advocating for your best interests throughout the legal process.
Contact a Washington wrongful termination lawyer to book a consultation and discuss your case. Only a Washington wrongful termination lawyer can provide you with the legal advice and representation you need to secure a fair and reasonable settlement to your wrongful termination claim.