Wrongful termination is a common occurrence in the United States: a 2018 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) revealed there were roughly 91,000 claims of wrongful termination in 2016 and approximately 84,000 such claims in 2017. Before determining whether or not you can viably claim a case of wrongful termination and need an attorney, it’s important to know how this is defined.
Understanding Wrongful Termination
By definition, wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired or dismissed from his/her job due to illicit reasons or in violation of company policy, employment agreement or federal or state law. This is different from normal termination, which is when a worker is let go for failing to perform job duties and responsibilities. It’s thus crucial to understand the difference between cases where employees are terminated while being under ‘at-will employment,’ workers who are victims of ‘discriminatory firing’ and those who have been fired in violation of employment contracts.
Employment is generally regarded as being “at-will” — and is thus not guaranteed — in most states. This essentially means employers have the right to fire employees at any given moment for any reason or for no specific reason whatsoever, and even without notice in some extreme caes. However, the only two exceptions to this power employers hold are when they terminate employees on illegal grounds (like discrimination) or in violation of an employment agreement. Then, an employee can file a wrongful termination lawsuit if he/she has proof that he/she was unjustly or illegally fired.
If an employer fires an employee on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, age, pregnancy or sexual orientation, this is considered discrimination and is in violation of EEOC regulations. For example, workers in California who are fired for being transgendered can sue their employers for wrongful termination because the state provides protections for LGBT employees.
Termination In Violation Of Employment Agreements
Any worker who has proof that his/her employer committed breach of contract, forced him/her to commit an illegal act or violated company or public policy or laws can typically sue said employer for wrongful termination.
Employees can also sue their employer for wrongful termination if they can prove they were retaliated against. Retaliation occurs when an employer fires a worker for filing any type of complaint, for reporting information like a colleague’s sexual harassment or for attempting to form a union, for example. Other actions and decisions employers are prohibited from retaliating against employers over include taking medical leave, taking time off to vote, serving in the military and whistleblowing.
What To Do If You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated
Wrongful termination lawsuits are often long, complicated processes that can take months or even years and include many steps. Therefore, if you believe to have a viable claim of wrongful termination, it’s important to consult an experienced attorney who specializes in these types of cases. Here is how such a lawyer can help you understand employment laws and what strategies to take to sue their employer.
- Understand your rights: An experienced employment attorney can help you know and understand what inherent rights you have whenever you are wrongfully terminated, including contract rights related to unions and collective bargaining and statutory rights. An attorney can also help you determine whether you are eligible for unemployment compensation.
- File an appeal: An attorney can help you figure out if you can contest your employer’s decision to fire you, and how to do so.
- File a discrimination charge: An attorney can provide guidance on whether you can file a discrimination charge against the EEOC for a wrongful termination case related to discriminatory firing, and how to do this. A lawyer can help you cite federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Other steps to take if you’ve been wrongfully terminated that employment attorneys can help you with include collecting information for the discovery phase of the case, requesting a scheduling order from a court and seeking a mediator or arbitrator.
Seeking More Information About Wrongful Termination Litigation
Speak to the experienced lawyers at The Brown Firm PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia to learn more about wrongful termination litigation or if you’re seeking help with filing a wrongful termination lawsuit.
The Brown Firm’s professionals have been serving Virginia and D.C. area for more than 65 years and provide legal consultations to help you determine if you were wrongfully terminated and which state or federal employment laws (including anti-discrimination laws) your employer may have violated by firing you, if any. The Brown Firm’s attorneys can help you identify exceptions in wrongful termination cases that could grant you any compensation you may be owed. The Brown Firm also provides civil litigation-related services like filing appeals and resolving disputes involving contracts or agreements.