You can sue your employer for wrongful dismissal. However, employment law is complicated, and it's important to understand what counts as wrongful dismissal and what doesn't. Here are some common examples of wrongful dismissal cases in the workplace.
Your employer cannot fire you because you raised the alarm over a particular issue. For example, if you were a whistleblower in a corruption case in the workplace, your employer cannot fire you based on such grounds.
Some employers fire workers for filing a workers' compensation claim. This usually happens when the workers get injured due to someone else's negligence in the workplace. As an employee, it is your right to file for a worker's compensation claim if you get injured at work.
Employment laws protect workers against racial discrimination. For this reason, your employer cannot fire you because you belong to a certain race. The same also applies if you complain about racial discrimination in the workplace.
If you've been sexually harassed at work, you shouldn't suffer in silence for fear of losing your job. Sexual harassment cases shouldn't be taken lightly, and no amount of threats should stop you from speaking out. Your employer cannot fire you for complaining about it.
Family and Medical Leave Act Violations
Did you know that you may have up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year? More specifically, your employer cannot fire you for taking leave for any of the following reasons:
- The birth and care of your newborn child;
- Taking care of an immediate family member, such as spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition; or
- Taking medical leave when you can't work due to a serious condition.
However, to qualify for this type of unpaid leave, you must have:
- worked for your employer for at least 12 months;
- worked for your employer for at least 1250 hours over the past 12 months; and
- worked at a location where your employer employs 50 or more workers within 75 miles.
Some rogue employers use different tactics to deny their employees their rightful wages. Workers who raise wage violation claims against their employers shouldn't be afraid of losing their jobs. But if that happens, they can take legal action against the employer.
Examples of common tactics some employers use to deny employees their rightful wages include:
- Requesting employees to work off the clock
- Averaging workweeks to avoid paying employees overtime
- Manipulating timesheets to deduct hours
- Paying employees less than the minimum wage
- Threatening undocumented workers with deportation if they report wage violations to authorities
- Failure to pay for unused vacation time upon termination (this only applies to specific states)
- Unpaid bonus or commissions
- Misclassifying employees to avoid paying them their rightful wages
Some employers may discriminate against workers of a certain age group, usually 40 or older. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits workers from:
- refusing to hire any eligible individual due to their age;
- denying certain individuals employee privileges due to their age;
- acting in such a way that affects the status of an employee because of their age;
- acting in a way that deprives any individual of employment opportunities due to their age; or
- decreasing the wages of any employee due to their age.
Suing for Wrongful Dismissal
If you have reason to believe that you were wrongfully terminated from your previous job, it's important to know the steps to take. While you can file a lawsuit without professional help, the chances of winning are extremely low.
This is because employment laws are complicated. Besides, they vary from state to state. What works in California might not work in Nevada or Washington. For this reason, such cases require the intervention of an experienced employment law attorney.
Here's how an employment lawyer can help you sue your previous employer for wrongful dismissal.
Knowing Where to File a Complaint
The exact location where you need to file your case depends on the reason for your wrongful dismissal. When you consult an employment lawyer, they'll evaluate your case and decide the best legal path to take.
For instance, certain types of cases should be filed in a civil court. In contrast, others need to be filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or any other relevant government agency.
Drafting the Complaint
When you have a complaint against your employer, you'll need to submit it officially in writing to the relevant authorities. You'll also deliver a copy of the complaint to your employer.
An experienced employment attorney can draft the complaint on your behalf, ensuring it meets all legal requirements before submitting it to the relevant parties.
Helping With Discovery
Discovery is the process of exchanging information between two parties involved in a case. During this process, both parties will review important documentation regarding the case, such as employee's files, employment history, proof of wrongful termination, and so on. It's therefore essential that you have a solid case against your employer, and that's something an employment attorney can help you with.
How to Prove Wrongful Termination
When you file a wrongful termination lawsuit, you carry the burden of proof. This means that you have to prove that your dismissal was unlawful. To do this, you'll need the following:
- statements made by the other party, such as your employer, supervisors, etc;
- emails, text messages, or any other form of communication between you and the other party that establishes your wrongful termination claim;
- witness statements or their contact information; and
- time and date of the wrongful dismissal incident.
It's important to note that the exact evidence needed for a wrongful dismissal lawsuit depends on the details of the case.
When the other party realizes that you have a strong case against them, chances are they'll want to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. In that case, an attorney can negotiate on your behalf. However, if both parties fail to reach an agreement, your attorney may decide to take the matter before a judge.
Calculating the Value of Your Case
An attorney can also help calculate the value of your case, ensuring you recover all if not most of the damages suffered as a result of the wrongful termination.
With the help of an experienced attorney, you may be able to recover the following damages in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
- cost of job searches;
- attorney fees;
- emotional distress;
- punitive damages;
- lost wages; and
- medical expenses.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Dismissal Cases
The statute of limitations for a wrongful dismissal case varies from state to state and also on a case by case basis. Some jurisdictions may require you to file a claim within three years, while others may give you up to ten years.
Working with an experienced employment law attorney is one way of ensuring that you file a claim within the confines of employment law. If the statute of limitations expires, you may not be able to sue your employer over wrongful termination.