Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Case?

This video features Samantha L. Pryor, Esq., a Business Law attorney based in Colorado.

Denver, Colorado Employment Attorney Explains

Video Transcript:

Samantha Pryor: 

I mean it really is about learning the circumstances around the termination and what led up to the termination to figure out what potential laws apply.

Rob Rosenthal: 

If you think you're the victim of a wrongful termination, what are your rights and where can you turn for help? We're gonna find out right now on this episode of Ask The Lawyer. My guest is Denver attorney, Samantha Pryor. And I will let you know right up front, if you'd like to ask Samantha questions about your situation, it's simple, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top that says "Ask a Lawyer," and there's a very simple process there, or you can always call the phone number you'll see on the screen during our conversation. Samantha, thank you so much for making some time to help us out. It's good to see you again.

Samantha Pryor: 

Yes, absolutely. Thank you for being here. It's always a pleasure.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So let's start off with just a little definition, I like to start off with definitions if I can. As an employment lawyer, explain to us what... I wonder what circumstances someone being laid off or fired would constitute wrongful termination.

Samantha Pryor: 

Sure. So there are a lot of different circumstances under which an employee's... The termination of someone's employment can be unlawful. And so probably a helpful place to start is to talk about the at-will employment doctrine. And so Colorado is an at-will employment State, and what that means is the employer or the employee can terminate the employment for any reason or no reason at all, as long as that reason is not unlawful. And so that's the whole playground for a lawyer is to figure out was there anything unlawful about the termination of someone's employment. And so there are a number of laws that could potentially apply, it really is about learning the circumstances around the termination and what led up to the termination to figure out what potential laws apply and will the employee be able to satisfy the elements of that type of claim.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So, what are some of the law reasons? I'm guessing discrimination, say, age discrimination, or sex. Tell me some of the reasons that could be considered unlawful.

Samantha Pryor: 

Sure. So, at the Halliburton Law Firm, we handle a lot of whistleblower retaliation cases or wrongful termination in violation of public policy. And so for example, the whistleblower retaliation cases are usually around an employee refusing to engage in some sort of activity that's unlawful, or if they have raised issues about the employer's activities that are unlawful and there then adverse actions are taken against the employee leading up to an eventual termination. And so the whistleblower retaliation cases you have to really show that there is a law that allows you to bring a lawsuit for refusing to engage in a dangerous or unlawful activity, or for complaining to the employer for the types of activities that the employer is engaging in. So that, for example, would constitute a whistleblower retaliation. I have an example, and that could be for... If, for example, someone is complaining about insider trading, there are laws that forbid an employer from retaliating against that person for bringing those issues up, including terminating their employment.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Now, is... In general, is wrongful... Suing for wrongful termination, is it difficult to prove? Is that a difficult thing to do?

Samantha Pryor: 

No, it depends on the facts of every case. Every case is so different as far as the strength and whether or not the facts will rise to the level of a viable claim for whistleblower retaliation, and so it depends.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Okay.

Samantha Pryor: 

And I'll say as well that, for example, under Title VII, which is a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it prevents against retaliation for complaining about discrimination or harassment or other unlawful employment activities. And if you're able to show that you complained about an unlawful activity that is protected under the law, or that you engaged in the other sort of protected activity under the law, and that the employer began to take adverse actions against you because of your protected activity, including the termination of your employment, then you can typically show that there was retaliation, but there is a burden shifting process that occurs.

Samantha Pryor: 

And so the employee must then show the different ways in which the employer started taking adverse actions against them, and the employer then... The burden shifts to the employer for them to respond and for them to provide justifiable business reasons for the actions that they took. And then the complainant has the last word at the end to show that whatever business reason they offer it is really just pretext or cover-up for retaliation, and here's why, and that's when they'll be able to provide their evidence.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Can a wrongful termination dispute, so the kind of thing that can be resolved with an employer without having to file a lawsuit or does it always end up in a lawsuit?

Samantha Pryor: 

Well, so in Halliburton Law Firm, we do everything we can to try to avoid having to file the lawsuit, but, of course, if we need to do that, then we'll be prepared to pursue the client's rights in court. But it is always a really good idea to try to get a resolution with the employer through negotiations. And oftentimes, depending on the type of claim, so for example, under Title VII, and under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, an employee is required to exhaust their administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or the Colorado Civil Rights Division within 180 days of each incident of retaliation.

Samantha Pryor: And so it's important that you speak with a lawyer right away if you feel like the termination of your employment was unlawful. I have seen a lot of times where people... In fact, we just had a consultation with someone who thought that the termination of their employment was based on age discrimination, but when we reviewed their facts, it was very clear that it was a whistleblower retaliation for the employee refusing to engage in dangerous work activities. And so the lawyers are able to analyse the claims based on their understanding of the law, and oftentimes that understanding is a little bit different than what employees understand the claim to be.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Right. That 180 days can go by very quickly though, so getting somebody involved early on is a good idea.

Samantha Pryor: 

That's absolutely right. And in fact, especially for... There are a lot of different laws that could potentially be triggered for whistleblower retaliation. So, for example, there are laws that allow for 180 days for you to file, but we just found a law that only allows 90 days for a person to file. And then if you're a State employee, an employee of the State of Colorado, you really only have 10 days to file a whistleblower complaint.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Wow.

Samantha Pryor: 

And so it's really important that if you're terminated that you... And if you feel it was unlawful, that you seek the advice of an attorney so that they can identify whether or not the termination of your employment was actually unlawful, and then try to see what is the best way to get your claim resolved.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Super helpful information as always, Samantha. Thank you so much for answering our questions.

Samantha Pryor: 

Yes, absolutely, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And that's gonna do it for this episode of Ask The Lawyer. My guest has been Denver attorney, Samantha Pryor. If you'd like to ask Samantha questions about your situation, you can go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top that says "Ask a Lawyer," and they'll walk you through the very simple process right there. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask The Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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