Your Rights When Losing A Job


For most people, losing a job is an unexpected and unpleasant surprise. It is not surprising that many people who have lost their jobs find themselves wondering what their rights are. Was it OK for your employer to fire you? Do you have any recourse against your employer? What are your options now that you have been let go?

Depending on your circumstances – like if you had a contract with your employer, or if you were fired based on illegal reasons, or if you weren’t paid everything you were owed – you may have the option of pursuing legal action against your employer to recover damages.  But every situation is different. So consider contacting an employment law attorney if you have questions about your rights after losing your job. The Wood Law Firm, LLC, can help you clarify how employment laws pertain to your situation, and whether or not you have the foundation for a strong legal case.

Did You Have A Contract?

The state of Illinois, like most states, is an “at will” state. At will means that an employer can terminate employment for pretty much any reason, as long as it is not an illegal reason like discrimination. Your employer could fire you for talking at work, for taking too many bathroom breaks or even for things that were done outside of the job.

However, if you had an employment contract, the situation may be different. Depending on what your contract says, your employer may only be able to use specific reasons for firing you. And a contract does not necessarily have to be written out, either. For instance, if your employer or a supervisor told you that you could not be fired unless you did a specific thing or failed to meet specific criteria, then that oral agreement could be considered binding.

If you had a contract – whether written or an oral agreement – and you were fired in violation of that agreement, then you should definitely speak to an employment lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you determine if your termination was acceptable. In cases where you had an oral agreement, your lawyer can decide if that agreement is enough grounds for taking legal action.

What If You Were Fired for Illegal Reasons?

When you are fired for illegal reasons you may have the option of filing a wrongful termination claim. Wrongful termination includes being fired or laid off for reasons such as sexual harassment, retaliation, discrimination and any other reasons that are in violation of state or federal laws. With a wrongful termination case you can pursue damages from your employer, either standard penalties based on the illegal action or damages for lost wages.

Your employment lawyer can help you verify if the circumstances of your termination were actually illegal, and what the best course of action would be take legal action.

Protecting Your Rights As You Leave A Job

Whether you are being fired, laid off or leaving voluntarily, it is always beneficial to do what is necessary to protect yourself as you leave an employer. Documentation is important to demonstrate the circumstances of your departure and as evidence should you need to take legal action. You should record all the facts about your firing or leaving, including who spoke with you, what they spoke about and how you were treated, as well as how you behaved.

As a general rule in a job, it is also a good idea to keep track of all significant moments related to your employment. Things like reprimands, changes in salary, performance reviews and even informal notes about your performance from superiors can all be useful later on to show what your employment was like, as well as any promises that were made or any negative behaviors on the part of your employer. Documentation that shows what your work experience was like can beneficial not only for taking legal action, but for proving that you were not fired based on misconduct.

One thing to note about taking documentation from your employer is that some documents may be considered confidential. Be careful when you are collecting documentation that you do not take anything that you are not supposed to take, because your employer could take legal action against you because of it.  And do not share anything you do take until you’ve consulted with an attorney.

Working With An Experienced Employment Lawyer

Sometimes jobs end and it is time to move on. But when you feel you were fired unnecessarily, or that the circumstances of your termination were not above board, you deserve to talk to an employment lawyer who will listen to your story. The Wood Law Firm, LLC, offers consultations where you can find out what your legal options are after you have lost your job. Please contact our firm today to discuss your case and get informed feedback on your situation.