What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination?

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination?

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What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination?

Have you recently been fired from a job and want to know more information about how to protect your rights? You might need to speak with a talented and experienced employment lawyer to help you determine the next steps. While not every job loss qualifies for a wrongful termination case, some may lead to legal action against the employer who broke the law. 

Unfortunately, many people who may feel they have been wrongfully terminated do not meet the state-related requirements for moving forward with a case. An employer frequently has cause to terminate you “at will,” based on the terms of your working agreement. This is because many employees are working at the will of the employer, and should the employer change their mind about the employment situation at any time, the employee can end the employment. 

Although many people may feel that the termination from their position was wrong, especially if it was done without a specific cause, the legal definition of what makes something “wrongful termination'' is extremely specific. Wrongful termination could mean that the company might carry out a contractual breach or violated federal anti-discrimination laws. An employee, for example, cannot be fired based on their gender, race, disability, ethnic background, or religious status. 

If an employee filed a legal complaint against their employer due to safety or other issues or brought light unethical or illegal actions as a whistleblower, the employee cannot be terminated for these reasons. These retribution actions may qualify for a wrongful termination case because they do indeed violate the law. However, it can be very difficult to prove a wrongful termination case without the support of an experienced attorney. 

This is why you should sit down with a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss what qualifies as wrongful termination. In order to determine what qualifies as wrongful termination in your case, you will need the specifics about any actions related to you being terminated from your position and any documentation you have that provides additional supporting evidence. This can help to illustrate whether or not your case qualifies as wrongful termination. Sadly, many people are confused about what qualifies as wrongful termination, putting them in the difficult situation of being without income and having lost their job, and not being able to take legal recourse. You should educate yourself about what qualifies as wrongful termination to put yourself in a good position to speak with a lawyer. Learn more about at-will employment, how to file a claim against your employer, and elements of wrongful termination by reading on.

Defining Wrongful Termination

What qualifies as wrongful termination depends on both state and federal laws. The term “wrongful termination” means that an employer has taken an illegal action to lay off or fire an employee for illegal reasons, like firing in violation of a written or oral employment agreement, firing in violation of state or federal anti-discrimination laws, firing an employee for legally participating in whistleblowing activity, or firing an employee who has complained about discrimination or sexual harassment. Going out of business, poor performance or actions that were caused by the employee are all legal reasons to lay off or fire an employee, even though the employee might feel as though there was no appropriate cause.

Legal Remedies for Pursuing a Wrongful Termination Case

If you have identified that your case meets the grounds for what qualifies as wrongful termination, your next step should be to get legal counsel to advise you about the basis of your case. You may be eligible to pursue punitive damages as a terminated employee. If you have an employment contract, one of the first things you should do is thoroughly review those agreement provisions. Any evidence of promises made to you by the employer, especially those in writing, are extremely important. If you were not informed directly about why you were terminated, ask for further details and request to view your personnel file. 

Any text messages, emails, and other communication from your employer should be retained. An employer is not required to give severance pay unless your employment agreement requires it or if a handbook indicates the employer has a general policy of doing so. This means that you are not necessarily entitled to automatic severance pay with wrongful termination. If you believe, however, that you were fired wrongfully, you need to be prepared for complicated and challenging legal proceedings, and it is best to consult with an attorney about what qualifies as wrongful termination.

Understanding At-Will Employment

One of the reasons that many people do not meet the grounds for what qualifies as wrongful termination is because they're in an at-will employment situation. This means the employer retains the right to fire an employee for no reason at all or for any legal reason. Employees in most states are presumed to be at-will employees unless their contract says otherwise. Furthermore, many employee handbooks also include this language to indicate that employees work at will. 

Employers are not required to give a clear reasoning for firing an at-will employee, but in many situations, employers do choose to give a reason, usually labeled "for cause.” If you were engaged in an employment agreement formalized into a contract, then the contract provisions are the governing agreement for how the employer should have notified you of your termination. Your employer can't terminate you for a reason that is not named in the contract if your contract explicitly lists reasons for which you may be fired. 

Many people discover after the fact that their contracts use very generalized language to give employers a great deal of leeway. Discipline procedures may also be helpful in your employee handbook or in your contract to verify whether or not the employer complied with these. When attempting to determine what qualifies as wrongful termination, an attorney can work with you to determine whether or not a discipline policy was not appropriately followed. 

One of the most important aspects for determining what qualifies as wrongful termination with differential treatment is whether or not other employees were fired for the same behavior that you allegedly carried out. Your attorney will then use that information to look for evidence that your employer illegally behaved towards you due to protected status. This includes things like a disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or age. In evaluating your case, any employer documentation will be instrumental in telling your side of the story. If the issue was related to alleged performance, then you will want to get copies of any personnel files and previous performance reports. 

You will also want to consider your possible financial losses. You could be eligible for emotional distress damages, lost pay, lost benefits, or even potential punitive damages. If you're successful in your case against your employer, you may also be entitled to attorney's fees. Make sure that you consult with an experienced and dedicated lawyer as soon as possible to start your next steps.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • When Should I Get Legal Help?

    You should get legal help immediately when you think that you have a legal case. A lawyer will help you determine how to plan for the future of your case. It can be very important to engage a lawyer early on, especially if you’re still in communication with your former employer for any reason. You might be able to learn more about what evidence to collect and how to prepare for a court case. If your employer reaches out to you during this time, make sure you don’t make any statements or sign anything. If you were wrongfully terminated, a lawyer’s insight can help you protect your legal right to file and keep you from making any mistakes early on in the process. 

  • Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me?

    There are certain situations where you cannot be fired from a position for taking action. For example, if you filed a complaint as a whistleblower because you learned that your employer was doing something unethical or illegal, your employer cannot fire you for that reason. It can be very difficult, however, to succeed in a lawsuit with this claim because of the evidence required. Contacting a dedicated employment lawyer to help you prepare your claim in this way is strongly recommended because of all the issues at play. Your lawyer might be able to help you collect evidence to support your side of the story. 

  • Hiring a Lawyer 

    It’s hard enough to lose your job, but it’s even worse when you believe the circumstances surrounding that action were illegal. It is in your best interests to retain a lawyer as soon as possible and to avoid any future communication with your former employer while any lawsuit or complaint is pending. These are serious allegations, but if your livelihood was taken from you because of an illegal action, you might have grounds to file suit. In those cases, you deserve to have legal representation from a team of attorneys who have a track record of success with wrongful termination claims. 

    If you’re ready to take your next steps in your wrongful termination case, contact Morgan & Morgan to receive a free, no-obligation case evaluation and learn more about your options for getting justice.

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