What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination is a legal term that means someone was fired or let go from their job either without cause or for a reason that goes contrary to anti-discrimination laws. In the first scenario, an employee’s contract must state that they may only be fired for cause. If they are then let go or fired and are not given a reason, they have been wrongfully terminated. In the second scenario, if an employee is fired or dismissed for a reason based on a legally protected trait, they are considered wrongfully terminated due to discrimination.
Sometimes referred to as wrongful discharge, wrongful dismissal, or unlawful termination, all of these terms refer to the same issue. It is illegal to discriminate against someone’s race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or other protected trait and use that as a reason to fire an employee. It is also illegal to go against a contractual agreement that explicitly states that a clear cause must be given for dismissal. If you or someone you know has been a victim of wrongful termination, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to represent you.
Our National Network of Employment Lawyers Can Find You the Right Attorney.
Hiring the right employment law firm or independent attorney is key to successfully pursuing a wrongful termination claim. While there are many employment lawyers out there, it can be hard to find the right one who fits your specific needs.
After representing clients in employment lawsuits for over a decade, we have encountered attorneys and law firms of all calibers. It is hard for us to see a client who chose poorly and was therefore misrepresented when we know a better lawyer could have served them well. It is this desire to see justice served for all clients that sparked us to create our National Network of Employment Lawyers.
We know that we cannot always represent every client ourselves, but we have put together a vast network of successful, experienced employment attorneys and law firms who will put their clients’ needs first. Everyone deserves proper individual legal representation. Otherwise, our great legal system fails. When you contact our national network, we will find you the right match for your claim to fit your needs.
Whether you need a powerhouse of a legal team to take on an employment law case on a grand scale, or you would be better served by a single individual representing you on a more personal level, we can recommend an experienced attorney with a proven track record for your claim. We take pride in listening to all clients who come our way to get the best feel for your situation. It is this personalized attention to detail that makes our national network of employment lawyers work so well.
If you have been wrongfully terminated or have other employment law concerns, contact us today to start the process of matching you with the right attorney in your area.
Wrongful Termination versus At Will Employment
The majority of jobs are “at will,” which means that an employer may hire or fire any employee for any reason at any time. On the surface, this makes it sound like there are no valid claims for wrongful termination if all employment is considered “at will.” However, there are some exceptions to the at-will rule.
Many jobs come with some form of written contract or employment promise. While some will state right on the contract that you are agreeing to an “at will” engagement, others will specify exact terms for your hiring and dismissal.
You may have a written promise of employment that states you can only be let go for specific reasons listed in the contract, or for “good cause.” If this is the case, and you are not given any clear cause for your firing, you have a strong legal claim for wrongful termination.
Other written contracts exist as promises to contractors for a certain duration of time. If your contract states that your contract term is three years and may only be terminated if you are convicted of a crime, then you also have a clear case to pursue a wrongful termination claim.
It is always a good idea to keep a file at home with copies of any employment contracts or promise letters so you can ensure that no terms are changed without your knowledge. Before signing any employment documentation, be sure to read and fully understand all of the terms laid out in the paperwork. Otherwise, you could be signing away any legal claims to ensure your continued employment.
Verbal Statements and Implied Promises
Even though the law assumes that you are an at-will employee without specific contractual documentation, you might have a case if you can prove implied promises. If your employer said things to you that you understood as a verbal employment contract, you have an exception to the at-will rules.
Any promises of job duration or job security that are made as incentives to employees can be used to fight wrongful termination claims. Statements like, “You’ll always have a job with us,” or “You can only be fired if you fail to meet these standards,” or “Meeting quotas results in promotions,” can all be taken as implied verbal promises of employment. If you can prove that statements like these were made to you either when you were hired or in your regular dealings with your employer, you could have an exception to the at-will limitations.
These claims can be tough to prove in court, though, since most employers are very careful to specify that jobs are at will. The most successful cases that use implied promises or verbal statements end up using a number of other factors in addition to the verbal statements to build a more complete case.
Your chances of success are better if you can prove repeated promises made not just to you alone, but to a group. If you have documentation of who said these kinds of things, in what context, and when, your case will be h2er. Also proving that you have been a successful employee in good standing will help your case. Showing regular promotions within the company and a history of positive reviews will further your claim that you were fired without warning.
Wrongful Termination Due to Discrimination
It is illegal for even at-will employers to fire anyone for discriminatory reasons. The law protects employees of any of the protected characteristics or traits from being dismissed based on those traits.
While the law is constantly evolving with society, the current federally protected traits for which you cannot be fired include race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marriage, disability, genetic information, and age. Each of these traits is clearly defined by law and is protected at both the federal and state levels against discrimination.
If you have any uncertainty about these traits and feel like your dismissal from your job could be a result of one of these protected characteristics, you most definitely should pursue a wrongful termination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
How to Pursue a Wrongful Termination Claim
Your first step in pursuing a wrongful termination claim should be to bring it up within your company, especially to the Human Resources department. If they are made aware of your concerns, they may be able to right the wrongs immediately without legal action.
However, if you are unhappy with your employer’s response to your concerns, you should take the next step by making a claim with the EEOC. If you hire a reputable employment lawyer, he or she can help you with this process by take you through the steps within the legal time constraints. Many individuals who attempt to file without legal representation can get hung up on the details, which causes delays. If you do not make your claim within the preset time limits, you may lose your right to pursue such a claim.
Whether you file with the EEOC for a discrimination claim or you pursue your wrongful termination claim due to breach of contract, having the right legal representation is key. Employment law changes constantly, so you need to hire an experienced attorney who understands your specific situation for your area.
Our National Network of Employment Lawyers can help you locate the right lawyer or law firm in your area for your wrongful termination claim. Don’t leave something as important as your right to work up in the air. Your livelihood and future career opportunities could all be negatively affected by a firing without cause. Protect your income and your future by pursuing your legal rights.
Let our years of experience in employment law work for you. We stand behind the lawyers and law firms that we recommend across the country because we know how important the lawyer-client relationship is for your peace of mind. Contact us today to access our national network to help match you with the right employment attorney for your needs.