What is the Definition of Wrongful Termination?

“You’re fired.” 

Two simple words can turn your life upside down. This is especially true if you believe your firing falls under the definition of wrongful termination.

The definition of wrongful termination is when an employer fires a worker for unlawful reasons or the termination violated a company policy or an employment contract. Wrongful termination does not have a uniform definition because each state enacts its own set of statutes that cover the employment law issue.

Unless you sign a contract or participate in a collective bargaining agreement, your employment status is considered at will. Neither you nor your employer needs a reason to end the employment relationship. For example, you can quit your job because you found a better professional opportunity. On the other hand, your employer can let you go to save money on labor costs.

Acts of wrongful termination nullify the legal application of at-will employment. If you feel your employer violated state and/or federal law by wrongfully terminating the employment relationship, you should contact one of the state-licensed employment law attorneys at Morgan & Morgan. We will review your case to determine whether your firing falls under the definition of wrongful termination.

If we determine your employer violated an employment law by terminating the employment relationship, our team of labor lawyers will decide which legal option makes the most sense for your particular case.

What Is a Wrongful Termination Claim?

If you believe your employer illegally let you go, you have the right to file a wrongful termination claim. Wrongful termination claims involve one or more violations of state and federal employment laws, such as discriminating against a worker or retaliating against an employee for whistleblowing. Although at-will employment does not require an employer to provide you with a reason for termination, the employer is not allowed to fire you based on unlawful reasons.

A wrongful termination claim is similar to a lawsuit in that you want to recover monetary damages. If you win a wrongful termination claim, you can recover lost wages and the cost of paying for an attorney. Depending on the severity of the employment law violations, the employer might have to face statutory penalties such as a fine.

What Are the Most Common Types of Wrongful Termination Claims?

The most effective way to explain a definition for wrongful termination is to provide common examples of the illegal act.

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment encompasses many different types of behavior, with sexual harassment representing the most cited reason for a hostile workplace. If you reported acts of sexual harassment at work and your employer fired you for reporting the unlawful actions, you might have enough evidence to file a wrongful termination claim. Another reason to file a wrongful termination claim for a hostile work environment is that you could no longer tolerate working in such a workplace.

Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it clear that employers cannot discriminate based on race, gender, religion, and national origin. Some employers make employment decisions based on one or more of the protected classes of Title VII. If you feel your employer fired you because of your race, gender, religion, and/or national origin, you should speak with a wrongful termination lawyer at Morgan & Morgan. Discriminatory practices can also produce a hostile work environment that has the same negative impact that sexual harassment has on the workplace.

Retaliation

Termination is one of the most common maneuvers employers use to retaliate against workers. Your employer might have fired you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Retaliation is also used against employees that report violations of state and federal laws. For example, a worker is fired for reporting multiple violations of the safety regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
An employer cannot terminate an employee for testifying on behalf of another employee. Your employer cannot even threaten to fire you for doing the right thing.

Wage Dispute

State and federal employment statutes prohibit employers from stealing wages from workers. Employers that undercount overtime hours and refuse to pay commissions violate wage theft laws. You have the right to fight back by retaining the services of an experienced employment attorney. If your employer terminates you because you disputed your wages, then you might have a strong enough wrongful termination case to file a civil lawsuit.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Your employer has to follow the statutes written into the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). One of the statutes requires your employer to offer you the same position you had before you took time off to care for yourself, your spouse, a child, or a parent. If your employer refuses to allow you to work in your previous position, your employer might have committed an act of wrongful termination. Your employer also cannot fire you for taking advantage of the FMLA.

Do I Need a Wrongful Termination Attorney?

The first thing an experienced employment lawyer should do is determine whether your termination falls under the definition of at-will employment or the definition of wrongful termination. Your lawyer reviews documents that describe why your employer ended the employment relationship. If your attorney discovers a violation of state and/or federal employment statutes, the next step might involve filing a wrongful termination claim.

Proving your employer wrongfully terminated you can be difficult to do. You need to collect and organize evidence, which mostly comes in the form of documents stored in the human resources department. Records of disciplinary action can hurt your chances of winning a wrongful termination claim. However, if your attorney discovers retaliation, a wage dispute, or a hostile work environment contributed to your termination, then you might be able to move forward with a wrongful termination claim.

Employment Contract

One provision of an employment contract describes the terms of employment. The contract clearly lists the reasons why your employer has the right to fire you. If an employer violated the terms of employment provision in the contract, you have enough evidence to proceed with the filing of a wrongful termination claim.

Employer Policy

Most employers hand out manuals to new workers that discuss company policies. One section of an employee manual should include the procedure for disciplinary action. For example, an employer might issue a verbal warning as the first step, issue a written warning as the second step, and terminate a worker as the third step. Employers that violate their disciplinary procedures might have fulfilled the definition of wrongful termination.

What Can I Expect From a Wrongful Termination Settlement?

Wrongful termination can have a profound effect on your standard of living. The sudden loss of a job leaves you without income to pay for daily living expenses, as well as significant monthly items such as mortgage and car payments. If you lost your job because an employer violated a state or federal employment law, you might have a strong enough case to seek just compensation for your financial losses.

Most wrongful termination claims never see the light of a civil courtroom. Instead, the attorneys representing each party try to negotiate a favorable settlement for both the employer and the wrongfully terminated worker. Settling a wrongful termination claim does not mean you do not get the compensation you deserve. It simply means you avoid a protracted legal battle that unfolds during a civil lawsuit.

How Are Wrongful Termination Claims Valued?

Several factors come into play for valuing a wrongful termination claim.

Lost Wages

Lost wages cover the amount of money you would have received if your employer had not wrongfully terminated you. The date of your firing to the date of the settlement is how employment law calculates lost wages. You might also qualify for future wages if you have not found a job after the wrongful termination.

Lost Benefits

You deserve compensation for any lost job benefits. For instance, if you had to pay for your own health insurance after wrongfully losing your job, you have the right to seek compensation that covers the cost of paying for your own health insurance. The same principle applies to company-sponsored retirement and life insurance plans.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering covers several factors, with emotional distress the most common factor associated with losing your job. Fear of falling behind on bills and the anxiety caused by lack of employment opportunities might be worth a substantial amount of money for a wrongful termination settlement. Losing your job might have also caused physical issues, such as an increase in blood pressure and the development of acute migraine headaches.

Contact Morgan & Morgan

Losing your job is one of life’s most stressful events. Losing your job because your employer wrongfully terminated you can send your stress level through the roof. Although it is easy to get angry and try to get even with your former employer, you should take a deep breath and consider pursuing a wrongful termination claim.

At Morgan & Morgan, we have helped many clients get the compensation they deserve for a wrongful termination claim. Because of the empathy we have for what our clients go through, we are able to establish a level of trust that keeps you focused on the big picture. Filing a wrongful termination claim is not about getting even.

It is about getting the compensation you deserve for dealing with an act of wrongful termination.

Working with the team of employment lawyers at Morgan & Morgan ensures you have the legal expertise to counteract the legal expertise of your employer’s team of litigators. Our investigators will work overtime to gather the evidence required to persuade your former employer that it is in its best interest to settle your claim. We will also confirm that your case meets the definition of wrongful termination.

Get the legal support you deserve by scheduling a free case evaluation with Morgan & Morgan.

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