Wrongful termination claims are legal actions brought by employees against their employers for illegal firing. These claims typically arise from violations of state or federal laws or breaches of employment contracts. Common types of wrongful termination claims involve discrimination, medical history, retaliation for whistleblowing or complaints, union organizing, or termination without a contractual cause. Compensation for wrongful termination may involve monetary damages and/or reinstatement of employment.
A wrongful termination claim is a legal action initiated by an individual who believes they were unjustly or illegally dismissed from their employment. These claims typically center around allegations of violating federal or state antidiscrimination laws, employment agreements (whether oral or written), or labor laws such as collective bargaining or whistleblower protections. Employees who suspect that their termination was a result of sexual harassment or in retaliation for filing a complaint against their employer can also pursue a wrongful termination claim.
How Does a Wrongful Termination Claim Work?
In many states in the US, employment is governed by the principle of "at-will" employment. This means that employers have the right to terminate employees without a specific reason or prior notice. However, this does not grant businesses unlimited discretion to dismiss employees. Termination for certain prohibited reasons, such as violations of state or federal laws or breaches of employment contracts, is not permissible.
When individuals believe that their dismissal falls under these prohibited circumstances, they can initiate a legal action known as a wrongful termination claim against their employer. These claims seek compensation for the unjust or illegal termination, similar to a lawsuit.
Successful wrongful termination claims can lead to different forms of compensation, including monetary damages for lost wages, job search expenses, and related costs. In some instances, the employee may request reinstatement to their previous position or a comparable role. Depending on the specifics of the claim, the employer may also face statutory penalties.
Wrongful Termination Claims Types
Employees have the option to file wrongful termination claims based on various grounds, which may include:
If someone is terminated from their job based on their "race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information (including family medical history)," they have the option to file a wrongful termination claim. These specific protections are covered by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC provides guidelines on how to file a charge of employment discrimination, which can be found on its website.
Before initiating a job discrimination lawsuit against your employer in the United States, it is necessary to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
Whistleblower protection prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report wrongful activities, including criminal behavior, within the workplace. Additionally, it is illegal to terminate an employee solely for filing a workers' compensation claim. However, individuals alleging retaliatory termination must demonstrate that it was a direct response to their claim and not based on work performance or any other legitimate reason.
Employers are prohibited from using genetic information when making employment decisions, including hiring and firing, under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This includes testing individuals for their susceptibility to certain diseases or asking about their family medical history.
Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have the right to engage in "concerted activity" to improve their wages or working conditions, even if they are not part of a union. This protection allows workers to organize unions or campaign for union representation without fear of retaliation from their employers. However, personal complaints or venting about the employer or boss may not be protected under this law.
Lack of Cause
Employees who have a contractual agreement that requires a valid reason for termination may have the option to file a wrongful termination claim if they are dismissed without cause. This applies when the contract specifies that termination can only occur for specific reasons, such as misconduct, neglect of duties, sabotage, or disclosure of confidential information.
Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim
Employees should review their employment agreement to understand their rights and resources. It is important to avoid signing severance agreements that may waive their rights. If they believe they were wrongfully terminated, they should consult with a labor lawyer or employment law specialist. It is advisable to seek legal advice promptly as there are specific deadlines for filing claims. Obtaining a copy of their personnel file can provide helpful information for the attorney evaluating the case.
Wrongful Termination Claims can result in significant compensation for employees who have been unjustly or illegally dismissed from their jobs. It is important for employees to understand their rights and resources, including reviewing their employment agreements and seeking legal advice promptly if they believe they have a case. Employers should also be aware of the potential consequences of wrongful termination and take steps to ensure that their employment practices are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.