You just received the bad news. You are fired. Whether or not the news came as a surprise, you may be thinking that the decision is unfair – or perhaps unlawful. In some instances, getting fired from a job is grounds for a wrongful termination claim. For a firing to meet the legal definition of wrongful termination, an employer must violate one or more conditions of employment. While most employees in Virginia work “at-will,” meaning that their job could be terminated at a moment’s notice for any reason, there are several exceptions. Learn more about wrongful termination and why you may be eligible to make a claim with the help of a wrongful termination attorney.
What Exactly Is Wrongful Termination?
Many people who are fired from their job feel that their termination was “wrongful.” However, to have a legal claim, your termination must meet the specific definition of wrongful termination. If you are wrongfully terminated, it means that you were fired for an illegal reason. Some of the most common claims of wrongful termination are related to Whistleblower is the term given to an employee who reports an employer’s or business’ misconduct, such as reporting illegal activities or participating in an active investigation in your workplace. Taking adverse action against an employee who has engaged in this type of protected activity may constitute as unlawful retaliation. Federal law protects employees from this type of retaliation.
Breach of Contract
In the U.S., at-will employment refers to contractual relationships in which an employee can be terminated by an employer for any reason and without warning. The employer does not have to establish “just cause” and can dismiss the employee for any reason that is not illegal. If you have a written employment contract with your employer that promises you job security, you are not an at-will employee. In Virginia, state laws also recognize implied employment contracts based on certain statements found in company handbooks or oral promises made by employers. If you have an employment contract and your employer violates it, you may have a legal claim for breach of contract.
Refusal to Commit a Crime
In some instances, an employer may terminate a worker’s employment for refusing to commit an illegal act. For example, an employer may ask an employee to cover up a theft, hack into a competitor’s system, manipulate accounting numbers, or shred compromising paperwork. Such activities can have serious repercussions, especially if the company is in the midst of an investigation. If your employer chooses to fire you because of your refusal to participate in fraud, crimes, or other illegal activities, it is wrongful termination.
There may be times when you need to take time off of work to deal with personal issues, illnesses, or to recovery from an accident. In Virginia, a private employer does not have to provide employees with sick leave, paid or unpaid. However, there are some types of protected absences. Employees are protected to take time off to vote, to serve on jury duty, to engage in military service, or for any protected absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Virginia employees are protected by the FMLA if the employer has 50 or more employees. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks off, unpaid, each year due to a serious health condition, to care for a family member or new child, or to handle situations pertaining to military service.
Recovering from Wrongful Termination
If you have recently been fired from your job, know that you have rights. At The Brown Firm in Alexandria, VA, we will protect your best interests in every situation while maintaining a high level of standards and ethics. To know where you stand after a work dismissal, contact our wrongful termination attorney. We can help you determine if you are eligible for wrongful termination claim based on your individual situation. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation.