Employment is considered “at-will” under the laws of most states; meaning that they may be fired at any time, for any legal reason; such as poor performance. Other employees work under an employment contract; meaning that unique employment terms may guide your job including limitations on your employer’s right to fire you. That said, no matter how you are hired, an employer may not fire you for illegal reasons. Even at-will employees may have grounds for a wrongful termination litigation if they are fired for discriminatory reasons, in retaliation for reporting workplace problems, or in violation of public policy.
Below are some instances in which, if violated, you may have cause for wrongful termination litigation:
- Anti-Discrimination Laws – Where you fired based on discrimination? Employers cannot terminate your employment based on discrimination; any protected characteristic, such as race/color, gender, national origin, religion, age, pregnancy, or disability. In addition to these federal laws prohibiting discrimination, many states also prohibit discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, and other identifiers. Some states also expand on existing federal protections.
- Employment Contracts – Were the terms of your employment contract ignored when you were terminated? An employer is bound by the terms of the employment contract they had you sign at hire. In addition, an employer may be obligated to honor any verbal promises made (aka an “implied” contract).
- Retaliation for Whistleblower Claims – Were you fired because you filed a whistleblower claim? Depending on the laws of your state, you may be protected against employer retaliation if you report an illegal or unethical act by your employer.
- Retaliation for Failing to Perform Illegal Acts – Where you fired because you would not perform or condone an illegal activity? An employer may not demand that an employee perform illegal acts (i.e. knowingly require you to ignore safety regulations).
- Protected Time Off – Did you employer fire you because you took time off for chemotherapy? Federal and some state laws, primarily the Family and Medical Leave Act, allow for unpaid leave to care for a family member or recover from illness. This law also covers military service members who are called into duty. Employees also may not be fired or retaliated against for taking time off to vote or serve on a jury.
Being fired is terrible under any situation but it can be devastating if you were wrongfully terminated. If you believe you were fired for illegal reasons and are considering wrongful termination litigation, then we can help.