If you were recently fired and feel as though you were wrongfully terminated, it may be possible to pursue a lawsuit. While most at-will employees can be fired for any reason, that does not include discrimination, sexual harassment, or whistleblowing.
Furthermore, if you had a written, oral, or implied contract in place with your employer, and they violated said contract, you would have grounds to sue. In this article we will discuss what is and is not wrongful termination, how to file for a lawsuit, and how you can move on afterward.
How To Know if You Were Wrongly Terminated
Before we can dive into when you can sue for wrongful termination, we first need to go over what does and does not count as wrongful termination. As previously stated, unless there is discrimination, whistleblowing, or sexual harassment involved, at-will employees can be let go at any time for any reason. If that is the case, you need to let it go and move on.
Examples of discrimination that are grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit include any cases where the decision for termination was based on the following factors:
- Race, color, or ethnicity
- Gender, pregnancy, sexual identity or orientation
- Age (this covers those over 40)
In the event that there was an employment-contract in place (written or otherwise), and you violated the contract, your employer was within their rights to fire you. As long as they provide proper notice as laid out in the contract, you do not have grounds to sue. Use it as a learning experience and do better with your next job.
Keep in mind, however, that just as you are bound by what it is in your contract, so is your employer. If they violate the contract in anyway (like firing you without proper notice or without giving you a reason), you have legal grounds to sue.
How to File for a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
Before you sue, first find out why you were terminated. As an employee (at-will or not) you have every right to know why you were fired. If you were terminated based on any of the aforementioned reasons, you are eligible to sue your employer on the grounds of wrongful termination.
If you believe you were fired for discrimination, you must first file a complaint with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You need to do this within 180 days from when the discrimination took place, or the EEOC will dismiss it. Some states or local agencies may extend it to 300 days, so it is important to know what the proper time limits are.
To file a lawsuit against your former employer you also must hire an employment law attorney. Schedule a consultation and bring any documents of proof you have regarding the wrongful termination, especially if your contract was oral or implied. Your attorney will work with you to help you understand if you have a chance to win the lawsuit, and if so, work with you to ensure you have a strong case. They can also give you an accurate estimate of how long it may take for the case to be resolved.
How to Move on After You Have Been Terminated
The sting of being wrongfully terminated is going to linger, making it difficult to move on. If you have some money saved to cover your lack of income, or you can obtain unemployment, take some time away from the situation. Go on that vacation you have been planning for years.
Just like during a rough breakup, you need time to heal and rest for both your physical and mental wellbeing. Then, return refreshed and ready to take on the world and start looking for a new job. Finding new employment is difficult enough under favorable circumstances but can be more troublesome after a wrongful termination that is then followed with a lawsuit.
If you are in the midst of a lawsuit with your former employer, here are some important things to consider when looking for new employment:
- Know your worth.
- Be honest.
- Boost your references.
Do not let your termination and the pending trial discourage you. Be confident in your skills and how much you are worth as an employee as you present yourself in interviews or negotiate terms.
If a prospective employer asks about your termination, tell them the truth about what happened. It is also important that you know the full details of your dismissal, should future employers contact HR to verify your past employment.
Talk to people you worked with in the past, especially coworkers from where you were wrongfully fired. Ask them to provide job references for you. This will boost your confidence, as well as your candidacy for future jobs.
There is a lot to consider before, during, and after suing your former employer for wrongful termination. It is important to know what to expect (cost, time, odds of winning, etc.) and how to leave it behind and move on towards new employment options.
If you are eligible and ready to sue your employer for wrongful termination, speak to an employment law attorney at The Brown Firm for assistance.