Wrongful Termination Checklist
A recent report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), states that the number of wrongful termination lawsuits has increased significantly since the recession. Wrongful termination cases topped out at nearly 100,000 in the three year period from 2012—2012.
The reasons behind the increase are not stated, but when times are tough employers can be tough also. And while, being tough is one thing, breaking the law is another. Many employment situations are “at-will,” meaning an employer can let you go at any time and for any reason, or even for no reason. But, if the reason (or lack of) violates the law, you have the right to sue. That’s why it’s important for you to understand the laws around termination and important that you stand up for yourself if you feel you have been wrongly terminated.
What is a wrongful termination?
There are many different types of wrongful termination, but generally a termination that goes against the law falls into one of these categories:
Any firing that is in violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws is wrongful termination. If you feel you have been let go because of race, color, national origin, age, gender, religion, a disability, pregnancy you may be able to file a claim for wrongful termination. Discrimination, even unintentional, is illegal, and in another recent post we discussed how discrimination may play a role in racial employment gaps in the U.S. There are strict rules that you must follow when filing a wrongful termination due to discrimination claim and your lawyer can help you work through the requirements.
Harassment can happen in many forms, not just sexual harassment. Employers or supervisors who make insulting or offensive comments regularly and in front of other people are committing harassment. The comments can be about sex, sexuality, gender, age, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion and generally make most people who hear them feel uncomfortable. Harassment creates a hostile work environment, not just for you, but for all employees. If you have been harassed, you are helping everyone by calling the employer out on their illegal behavior, because no one should feel unsafe at work.
Another form of wrongful termination is retaliation. One common example is suddenly being let go after taking part in an investigation of the company’s behavior or practices. If you reported your company for workplace violations to a supervisor, the human resources department, or an outside agency, and then found yourself out of a job, you may be able to file a claim for wrongful termination. The law protects you in this regard, and you can’t be fired for doing the right thing. If you reported discrimination, harassment, or minimum wage violations you may be protected, and your lawyer can help you determine the legal requirements around proving that you were fired because of your legal actions.
Breach of Contract
If you have a written contract for employment, it may state that you can only be terminated for good cause or for specific reasons. It’s important to read the contract and know specifically what those reasons are and to know whether the employer is in violation. It gets a little tricky with an oral contract, or an implied contract. In these types of contract situations, you may have to show that you had good reviews, were employed for some duration and whether there were assurances that you would have ongoing and continuing employment. Your lawyer can ask the right questions to determine if you have a case for wrongful termination.
Fraud can happen anytime, but is more prevalent when the job market is as volatile as it has been with the recession. In these circumstances, employers and recruiters may be tempted to make false promises in order to get you in the door, only to break those promises, and possibly fire you afterwards. Sometimes an employer is looking for a quick and short-term boost in manpower and then, due to economic reasons, needs to let people go. If you were brought into employment under the assumption that you would have longer term work, fraud may be involved. Fraud requires good documentation and evidence of what was promised and by whom, and your lawyer can help you gather the necessary data.
Contact an Experienced Employment Law Attorney
Essentially, if you feel you were terminated without good cause and in violation of the law, you have the right to file a claim for wrongful termination. There are many local, state, and federal laws that employers must follow, and if you feel there has been a violation, a wrongful termination lawyer can help you decide what to do.
Your first step should be to give us a call to go over the circumstances of your termination and help determine what options may be available to you. Contact our office today to see how we can help.