Wrongful Termination and Kansas Employment at Will: Contradiction in Terms?

Wrongful Termination and Kansas Employment at Will: Contradiction in Terms?

In the absence of a written employment contract, Kansas employees generally are designated as employees-at-will. The employment-at-will doctrine provides that the employment relationship can be terminated by either party for any reason or no reason at all.  However, the harsh impact of the employment-at-will doctrine may be limited by an employment contract.  Another limitation on the employment-at-will doctrine is that an employee may not be terminated based on illegal discrimination or for other public policy reasons.  Approximate 250,000 employees are unjustly fired from their workplace annually.  Victims of wrongful termination may have a right to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer.

If your employer has fired you based on unlawful discrimination, violation of an employment contract or against public policy, you must seek professional help from a wrongful termination law firm, which represents employees who are wrongfully terminated in Federal or Kansas administrative hearings seeking relief.  Once administrative remedies have been exhausted, they will help you pursue a lawsuit in Kansas State or Federal courts, depending on the circumstances of your claim.

We have provided a basic overview of some of the grounds that may constitute a basis for a wrongful discharge claim.

When an Employer Violates Kansas State Law of Federal Discrimination Laws

  1. Discrimination:  A number of Federal and Kansas statutes prohibit employment policies and decisions based on such factors as race, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin or citizenship.  A termination that is based on any of these unlawful grounds may create a basis for pursuing a Kansas claim for wrongful termination or wrongful discharge.
  2. Whistleblower Protection: There are both Federal and Kansas statutes that provide protection against discharge to employees who report certain illegal, fraudulent or unsafe practices by their employer.  Whistleblower protections protect employees against reprisals for reporting these types of illegal or unethical conduct by an employer.

While the law does not necessarily prohibit all terminations of an employee who falls into the above categories, the employer must have a legitimate basis for the termination.  Wrongful termination or wrongful discharge cases often involve extensive investigation and analysis of a company’s documents, past records and patterns of hiring and firing as well as careful analysis and evaluation of the employer’s stated basis for the termination.

When an Employer Violates a Public Policy

In Kansas, an employee may be able to pursue a wrongful discharge claim against a company if the employee’s discharge violates certain public policies.  These public policies may be embodied in either Kansas or Federal law.

Below are a list of public policy violations that may constitute grounds for a Kansas wrongful termination claim:

  • Termination of an employee for refusing to violate the law.
  • Firing an employee for making a worker’s compensation claim.
  • Terminating an employee who reports a violation of law by a company when it can or did harm the public.
  • Firing an employee for exercising certain statutory or constitutional rights.
  • Termination of an employee for responding to a subpoena or participating in a deposition for a civil lawsuit.
  • Terminating an employee who insists on compliance with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
  • Firing an employee for reporting or disclosing suspected criminal activities of a co-worker.

If you are the victim of wrongful discharge for any of the reasons above, you may have the right to file a claim for wrongful discharge against your employer.  These cases are extremely complex and have many administrative, procedural and timing requirements.  If you have a written employment contract, the requirements for initiating a wrongful termination claim may be impacted by provisions in your employment agreement.  If your case is based on discrimination or the statutory protections of a Kansas or Federal law, such as a whistleblower statute, you will likely need to exhaust administrative remedies before pursuing a lawsuit.  The time limits for initiating an administrative claim will typically be much shorter than the statute of limitations so it is important that you promptly seek the advice of an experienced Kansas wrongful termination attorney.