Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired without justifiable reason. Discrimination, fraud, and retaliation are just a few causes of wrongful termination, and often involve a breach of contract, both written and implied. Wrongful terminations can be stressful and financially damaging; it is important to explore options for legal action after a wrongful termination. Due to the differences in employment law from state to state, it’s a good idea to reach out to an employment and labor attorney in your area to discuss your next steps.
At-will states and employers can make it difficult to take legal action over wrongful termination.
In states that allow “at-will” employment, an employer may choose to fire an employee for just about any reason without the fear of legal consequences. Similarly, an employee may choose to quit their job for any reason. In many instances of at-will employment and termination, there are not a lot of options for legal recourse.
However, if the wrongful termination occurred due to reasons of personal discrimination or retaliation for whistleblowing or reporting bad conduct, legal action may be an option to consider. To learn whether your state is considered at-will, and to discuss the merits of your case for wrongful termination, seek legal counsel as soon as possible after the termination.
If you believe you have been or may be wrongfully fired, consider taking the following steps to give you the best chance at legal protection:
- Keep notes. It is important to keep a record of any unfair practices occurring during your employment, leading up to your termination or suspected termination. Notes should include details about what you have observed and experienced at work, including the dates and times those observations were made.
- Request an explanation for the termination. You may always ask your employer to give their reasons for the termination. If you can obtain this explanation in writing, that is even better. If your employer refuses to offer an explanation for the termination, talk to an attorney who may know how to convince the employer to cooperate.
- Request a copy of your personnel file. You may always ask your employer for a copy of your personnel file. Again, if they refuse, reach out to an attorney who may know how to apply the right kind of pressure to obtain your personnel file.
- Determine if you are eligible to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint. Anyone who has suffered harassment or discrimination in the workplace for any reason is eligible to file an EEOC complaint. If the complaint checks out, you will receive a right-to-sue notice indicating that you should take further legal action, even if you work in an at-will state.
- Determine your state’s at-will employment status. Determining your state and employer’s at-will status is an important step to take after suffering a wrongful termination. If you are unsure how the at-will laws in your state apply to your situation, reach out to an attorney.
- Begin looking for another job. It is important to prepare yourself if you suspect a wrongful termination may be in your future and begin looking for work elsewhere. Similarly, if you have already been wrongfully terminated, it’s important to seek new work as soon as possible both for the financial security of you and your family but also because it can help your case if you are eligible to file.
- Talk to an employment and labor attorney. The laws surrounding wrongful termination cases can be extremely complex and differ widely from state to state and employer to employer. Due to the complicated nature of this type of lawsuit, it is particularly important to seek legal counsel from an experienced employment and labor attorney. Many of these attorneys offer free consultations and can give you an idea of how to safely move forward at no cost to you.
To learn more about wrongful termination or for help if you have been wrongfully terminated, reach out to an employment and labor attorney.