Wrongful Termination

If you believe you have been fired or let go from your job unfairly, you may have a legitimate case for wrongful termination that you can pursue.

If you are successful, you may be able to get your old job back or claim damages. Wrongful termination is defined as what happens when an employer illegally fires or lays off an employee. The firing may have violated federal, local or state laws of employment. In general, these laws prohibit and aim to prevent separations from employment due to harassment, discrimination, retaliation or breach of contract.

Another example of wrongful termination is businesses that violate company policies in the job separation and fail to act in good faith and with fair dealing. In more extreme cases, fraud and defamation of an employee’s character is considered wrongful termination. If you wish to pursue a wrongful termination case against your former employer, the first step is to find yourself a qualified lawyer to represent your case.

Breach of Contract

If you have a contract or other written agreement with your employer and your employer terminates you in violation of your contract, then you have a clear wrongful termination case against your employer. The contract does not even need to be written in order for its violation to be considered a breach. For example, breaking an implied promise can also be considered a breach of contract. The following are some other examples of such implied promises that qualify as a breach of contract:

  • Promises of long-term or permanent employment made at the time of hiring or assurances your job would be continuous and secure.
  • Neglecting to give you the required warning before firing you or letting you go.
  • A positive performance review history.
  • Promises of regular job promotions.

Fair Dealing and Good Faith Breaches

Beyond written and implied promises your employer could potentially violate in your termination, there are also legitimate expectations addressed in speech or writing that state your employer will treat you well. If you can show that your employer was acting in bad faith and/or dealing unfairly with you, then you may still have a valid case for wrongful termination, even if there was nothing ever spoken or put into writing about the offense. Examples of violations of fair dealing and good faith include the following:

  • Transferring or firing you in order to keep you from collecting commissions.
  • Misleading you about your chances to get wage increases or promotions.
  • Making up reasons for firing you when, really, you were fired so your employer could replace you with someone who would do the same job for less pay.
  • Downplaying the negative parts of a job when hiring you so you are forced to choose between untenable workplace situations or conditions and resigning.
  • Transferring you to undesirable assignments repeatedly in order to get you to quit before any benefits or severance package would kick in.

One exception to these options, depending on the court, may be if your employment is classified as “at will”. In certain states, an actual employment contract must exist before you can sue an employer for a violation of fair dealing and good faith.

Public Policy Violations

If your employer is in violation of any public policy when terminating your employment, then your termination is wrongful. Public policy violations are considered any breaches of what society deems legitimate grounds for terminating workers, such as firing you for any of the following reasons:

  • Taking time off to vote or serve jury duty.
  • Serving in the National Guard or military.
  • Disclosing a practice of the company not paying employees earned vacation pay or commissions(whistleblower).

In certain states, you are also protected against wrongful termination for serving as a volunteer firefighter or election officer. You may also be protected from firing because you utilized a legal solution or exercised one of your legal rights, like filing a claim for workers’ compensation or reporting an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) violation. Similarly, firing for whistle-blowing is also considered a violation of public policy. In some states, however, whistle-blowers are only protected for reporting employer violations of specific laws, like labor or environmental laws, rather than just any law. Terminations in retaliation for any other legitimate actions you took as an employee are also prohibited.

Discrimination

If you were fired because of your race or ethnic background, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, religion or other classification of identity you can file a wrongful termination case based on discrimination. To file a claim of wrongful termination due to discrimination, at least one of the following must be true:

  • There is direct or circumstantial evidence you were fired for discriminatory purposes.
  • Other employees in similar positions are treated with similar discriminatory behavior and practices.
  • Your superior made statements or took actions indicating a bias favoring or disfavoring a particular group or groups of people.

Harassment

Wrongful termination due to harassment occurs if you were forced or compelled to leave your job because of harassment you received on the job because of your race, gender, age or other identity classification. This may have come from your employer directly or from your fellow workers and has not been properly addressed by your employer.

Fraud and Defamation

Two more serious wrongful termination charges you can bring against an employer are for fraud and defamation. Fraud occurs when your firing is handled in such a devious manner it transcends the other categories of wrongful termination by its sheer fraudulence. This often occurs during the recruitment phase of employment, when promises are often made and then later broken. Fraudulent termination also occurs frequently in the latter stages of employment when an employer coerces or induces an employee into resigning. Proving fraud was involved in your termination is a matter of collecting the proper evidence and corroborating testimony.

Wrongful termination involving defamation occurs when your employer intentionally tries to smear your name or ruin your reputation and fine standing within the community. To win such a claim, you must be able to prove the employer made false statements about you with malicious intent, such as in the manner of your firing or the process of providing references.

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