Anyone who has ever been fired is well aware of how stressful it can be, however for those fired illegally, this stress is compounded. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated it is definitely to your benefit to research the laws which govern your case. Of course, this can be difficult to do while you are trying to find a new job and attempting to make ends meet without a paycheck. Being fired definitely falls in the top ten of life’s most challenging situations, but getting legal help for your wrongful termination can significantly lessen the stress involved. Many people are not certain whether their firing could be considered a wrongful termination or not. Your first order of business is to determine whether your legal rights were violated when you were terminated, and if so whether it is to your benefit to sue or not.
While nearly every state has adopted some form of “employment at will,” meaning the employer has the right to terminate an employee with or without reason and the employee also has the right to quit with or without reason, there are exceptions to this doctrine. Nearly all workers are afforded protection under state or federal law from any type of discrimination which stems from age, race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, retaliation or pregnancy. Certain states have also included discrimination based on sexual preference in that list. The law also protects employees from specific types of persecution in the workplace although such harassment must be considered discriminatory—in other words general harassment that does not fall under a protected category such as sex, age, race or disability is not specifically prohibited under law.
Instances in Which You Probably Should Sue for Wrongful Termination
- If you complained about some form of discrimination or harassment and were terminated after your complaints, then you could have a wrongful termination suit.
- If your employer terminated you in direct violation of a legal contract between you and your employer then you may have a wrongful termination suit.
- If you were the victim of discrimination based on the criteria listed above, then you may have a strong case for wrongful termination.
- If you filed a complaint against your employer for violation of a specific law—also known as whistleblowing—and you feel your employer is retaliating by terminating your employment, then you should consider a suit for wrongful termination.
- If your employer terminated your employment because you took time off for a serious, long-term illness of your own, the illness of a child or if you took time off to engage in military service then you may have a wrongful termination suit.
- If your employer asked you to perform an illegal or unsafe act, you refused and were fired, then you should speak to an attorney regarding a wrongful termination suit.
- If you worked for many years at the company you were fired from, sustained serious emotional harm as a result of your treatment at work, or believe it will take a considerable amount of time to find comparable work, then you should speak to an attorney.
- Finally, if you were fired for being involved in organizing a union or if your employer violated your company’s termination policy when you were fired, then you may have a solid wrongful termination suit.
Potential Reasons Not to File for Wrongful Termination
- If you are suing for no other reason than getting even with the employer who fired you, then you should probably reconsider.
- If you worked for your employer for a short period of time, then chances are you were not paid enough to warrant pursuing a wrongful termination suit. You must remember that the legal process is expensive therefore you must calculate whether the payoff will be worth the cost.
- You must be able to prove that your case falls under one of the exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine, meaning you must be meticulous in collecting clear and convincing evidence to support your case.
- There is a statute of limitations in place for wrongful termination suits, which in many jurisdictions is one year. Seek legal advice immediately following your termination if you feel it may have been an illegal firing.
- Remember that pursuing a wrongful termination case can be emotionally draining and often the results are not quite what you expected. You may also find it harder to obtain future employment should you decide to pursue your wrongful termination suit.
Your best course of action following what you believe to be a wrongful termination is to speak with a qualified attorney immediately to determine whether you have a strong case. Remember to keep careful documentation of your termination process in the form of a written record of dates, locations and other people involved in any significant event.