Being fired often makes you feel powerless, losing the salary and prestige that a job may give you. However, depending on the circumstances, you may have some recourse. According to Orange County lawyer Corbett H. Williams, anyone terminated based on characteristics including an employee’s disability, pregnancy, gender, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion and national origin, should seek out a wrongful termination lawyer if they feel they were let go unfairly. The list of potential characteristics is even larger than that under the law in many states, making it all the more important to seek legal advice.
Was My Termination Illegal?
The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the United States is what is called “at-will” states. Essentially, what this means is that your employer is within its rights to fire you at any time, without providing a formal reason. For this reason, wrongful termination can be difficult to prove. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. We mentioned that discrimination is a major reason why wrongful termination suits sprout up, but these are not the only potential causes you may have for wrongful termination. These include:
Violating Promises: When you enter with an employer, there is some sort of contract made, be it written or verbal. For the most part, this doesn’t necessarily cover your termination, but there are exceptions. For example, if your work promised a certain length of time that you would be employed, but you were let go beforehand, this may be a breach of your contract. However, the burden falls on you to prove that they didn’t have a decent cause in letting you go early.
Violation Of Public Policy: Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees cannot be fired for engaging in “protected concerted activity.” This includes meeting with workers to improve working conditions, and you don’t have to be a union member to benefit. What isn’t covered by this is individual complaints, so be mindful if you plan on venting about the boss to a coworker. In addition, you cannot be fired for refusing to commit an illegal act on behalf of your employer, or for whistleblowing, which leads right into our next reason.
Retaliation/Defamation: Retaliation is difficult to prove, but does happen in the workplace, and you do have some legal recourse. For example, if you formally complain about a health or safety concern, OSHA would protect you if you were fired. In addition, your employer cannot fire you for filing a harassment complaint or Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Be sure that your situation falls under one of these umbrellas before ramping up your case. It’s not unheard of for people to think they were wrongfully terminated only for the reason to be different.
Getting Ready For Your Case
After determining whether or not you have a potential case, it may be tempting to try and go out and take it right to your former employer, but preparation is key. The first thing you should do is keep a track of any relevant communications during your tenure that may provide insight to your termination. Check in with your human resources department to understand what exactly the termination policy is, to see if there are any inconsistencies. If you are looking for specific details on your state law, look to information from the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, or your own state labor department.
Perhaps the most important step, as we mentioned before, is getting an attorney’s insight. Many provide free consultations and can guide you on whether or not your case has potential to win. Don’t be afraid to realize that in the end, your termination may have not truly been unlawful. Working styles don’t mesh, skill sets don’t meet needs, and other issues happen. However, sometimes that inkling you have may be more than just an inkling. In this case, knowing your rights and