Your Legal Rights at Work

Wrongful Termination: What Occurs & Your Legal Options

by Lewis Hamilton

If you live in a state that recognizes at-will terminations, your employer has the right to fire you for no real reason. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. If you think that you were wrongfully terminated, you can take legal action.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires a person for reasons that are illegal. In the event an employee can prove that the reason for the termination was illegal, the employee can file a complaint with the state's labor board and a civil lawsuit. 

Possible remedies for wrongful termination could include monetary compensation, job training, or being rehired. Your state's laws play a major role in what type of punitive damages you can seek. Your lawyer can help you determine what you can legally expect from your employer if it is decided that you were wrongfully terminated. 

What Is an Illegal Reason for Termination?

An illegal reason for termination can involve violating state and federal anti-discrimination laws. For instance, termination based on religious beliefs, race, sexual orientation, and gender are all illegal. 

It is also illegal to terminate employment for retaliation. For instance, if you filed a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor and were fired for doing so, this would be considered retaliation. 

What Other Situations Are Included in Wrongful Termination?

The contract that you have you with your employer also plays a major role in whether or not your termination is considered wrongful. If you have a written contract that guarantees you job security, you possibly have a case. A contract that states there must be a good reason for firing you and this criteria was not met, you can file a complaint.

Your contract with the employer does not necessarily have to be in writing to be considered valid. In some states, if your employer implied that you were guaranteed employment permanently or for a certain time period, you could have a case. 

In both instances, you will need proof of the contract. Proof of a written contract is as simple as presenting the document to the state's labor board or court. Proving an implied contract can be trickier though. 

Witnesses to the arrangement, such as co-workers and supervisors, can help make the case. It is harder to prove an implied contract, but it is not entirely impossible. 

Talk to a lawyer like Alterman Stuart J that specializes in employment and labor law if you think you were the victim of wrongful termination. Remember, statute of limitations do exist and you could have a limited amount of time to take action.