Losing your job is stressful, but when you lose your job due to discrimination, prejudice or other unjust reason the stress factors multiply.
It is important to address the situation as soon as you lose your job because the longer you wait for the more it works against your case. Laws are in existence to protect workers from wrongful termination. Even if you live in an “at-will” state, where an employer can terminate your job at any time, you still have recourse.
Labor laws protect workers from discriminatory practices in the workplace, which include a wide variety of illegal actions by employers or co-workers. In these instances, the “at-will” is negated and you may have a legal case to sue.
Wrongful termination cases are often one of the hardest types of cases to prove because more often than not, the worker has not documented ongoing issues. He or she has typically refrained from discussing it with anyone other than family or friends. Still, avenues are available to pursuing legal action. Use the following information to help you understand what is involved with wrongful termination.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination means an employer has illegally dismissed you or has fired you in violation of a company contract you signed. Even in an “at-will” state violation of a company contract supersedes the “at-will” ruling. The confusing part of wrongful termination is in the determination of whether the termination was wrongful. U.S. law has clear-cut definitions for wrongful termination.
The official definition states wrongful termination is upheld when you, as a worker, have been dismissed because of discrimination. This discrimination takes many forms and qualifies for wrongful termination. For example, maybe you were fired because you were pregnant and about to go on maternity leave.
Perhaps your department was dissolved and there was no longer a job for you, but then as soon as you left the department was reinstated. Other reasons for pursuing a wrongful termination case include:
- You reported illegal, unsafe or questionable acts by your company (whistleblower).
- You experienced sexual harassment.
- You refused to go along with illegal acts required of you by your immediate superiors.
- Your termination violated a contract you signed with the company.
Being Fired Because of Discrimination
Discrimination is one of the leading causes of wrongful termination cases. It helps your case if you have documented each incident as it has occurred and discussed it with the human resources officer if one exists. This provides you with the evidence you need to support your claim.
In all states in the U.S. and its territories, it is illegal to dismiss a worker due to age, race or gender. This is especially important where older workers are concerned.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is one of the leading organizations dedicated to dealing with workplace equality. It enforces civil rights laws and provides educational resources, often for free. The commission assists employees who believe they are the victim of workplace harassment, wrongful termination, and discrimination.
Without going into a lengthy history lesson, you should know that several specific U.S. laws exist to combat discrimination. Those include Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. These laws state that no worker can be discriminated against because of race, color, ethnicity or national origin, as well as other factors.
What Action Can You Take?
As soon as you lose your job in a wrongful manner, do not wait to pursue legal consultation. Wrongful termination attorneys specialize in handling these types of cases and are able to evaluate the circumstances around your job loss for a case. You may be entitled to compensation, either monetary or reemployment. In the event you have been fired, filing a wrongful termination case allows you to negotiate for severance pay or an exit package compensation.
In the end, even if your recovery is a low dollar amount, the public record forever reads that this employer dealt with you unfairly. This may serve to change company policy for future workers.
The first step to take is to research wrongful termination laws for your state as they vary from state to state. One of the best resources is your state’s labor office or the official unemployment benefits site. Each state has its own deadline for filing a claim for wrongful termination, so waiting is not advised.
If you would like to find an attorney specializing in wrongful termination, the state labor department keeps a listing of attorneys. Filing a complaint without an attorney’s help leads to long delays, so before filing make sure you consult with a lawyer.
If financial reasons are causing concern when it comes to hiring an attorney, many attorneys work for a low-cost or no-cost situation. Most consultations are free with attorneys in this line of work, and often they agree not to charge you anything unless the case results in a positive outcome for you. Good lawyers tell you when you do not have a case as this saves you time and frustration and saves them time as well.
You do not have a case if you are simply angry at your boss for firing you. Unless you have witnesses and documentation proving discriminatory practices at your place of work, you do not have a winnable case, even if discrimination did truly happen. Wrongful termination lawyers advise you as to your next steps regarding your case when this occurs.
If your job was with the federal, state or local government then your protection as a worker has more protection than in the private sector. The first, fifth and 14th amendments guarantee workers the right to life, liberty and property, and employees who are fired from government work must have been fired for egregious reasons. Wrongful termination happens all the time in the U.S. and the “at-will” rulings have made many employees feel as if they have no recourse when faced with discrimination or prejudice.