If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, there are several very important steps you must take. First and foremost you must determine whether you live and work in an “at-will” state—which is basically every state except Montana. At-will status gives your employer the right to terminate your employment however they still cannot engage in illegal, wrongful termination. Next, do you have an employment contract, and if so, can you locate it and determine whether that contract spells out a specific termination process. If you signed an employment contract, there is likely a termination process that your employer is legally obligated to follow, as well as your certain rights in case of termination.
Was Your Termination Illegal?
If you want to win your wrongful termination suit you and your attorney will need to prove your termination did not follow legal channels. Were you discriminated against by virtue of your race, gender age, religion, disability or national origin and did this discrimination lead to your termination? This is crucial information which must be documented and included in your lawsuit. Were you terminated as an act of retaliation? In some cases, employees report their employer to authorities for the violation of a law, because they committed an illegal act or because the employer demanded their employee perform a task which was illegal.
If you were terminated because you “blew the whistle” on your employer you have the basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Once again, your documentation of illegal acts must be impeccable. Did your employer make slanderous remarks about you which eventually led to your termination? You will likely need witness corroboration and careful documentation to prove this. If you actually quit your job, but feel you were forced to do so because your working conditions were unbearable (such as harassment on the job) then you may be able to claim constructive discharge and win your wrongful termination lawsuit.
If you believe you might be terminated—or even if you have no reason to think termination is imminent-you can never go wrong keeping meticulous records regarding your employment history. No matter what really happened, your employer is likely to claim you were terminated for a specific reason—your work was substandard or you violated a company policy. If you have records which definitively prove the contrary you are way ahead in your lawsuit for wrongful termination. Keep copies of every performance review you received and any other documentation which proves you were a good worker who was solid and dependable. Keep copies of any memo, note or e-mail you send to your employer or other co-workers as a matter of course—and never, ever send an e-mail while you are angry or upset.
A general “diary” of your day-to-day employment history can be invaluable and you must be well prepared. Most particularly, notes of any type of discrimination you have suffered or talks you had with your employer or other employees could all end up being very important. Keep all your important papers together at your home in a secure place. If there were witnesses to discrimination against you, get witness statements and find out if other employees were treated in the same manner. Create a timeline of important events; your attorney will thank you. Review your personnel file occasionally and make copies or take notes on anything you don’t have in your records. Keep all paperwork organized and easy to find and if you find yourself on the receiving end of a wrongful termination you and your attorney will be extremely glad you did.