Every employee in the U.S. has the right to equal treatment and pay regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, and religion. The employer must respect the employees’ rights even when they lay them off. Even though many employees who are fired may feel their dismissal was “wrongful,” especially if it was unwarranted, the legal term of wrongful termination is pretty narrow.
So what is considered wrongful termination and how can you know when one happens to you or someone you know? To be wrongly terminated means that you were let go from your job for an improper reason, such as in violation of federal anti-discrimination legislation or a breach of your contract.
If an employee’s color, gender, ethnicity, religion, or disability are factors in their termination, that person cannot be let go for those reasons. If an employee files a complaint with the appropriate authorities or acts as a whistleblower to expose an employer’s illegal activity, the employer cannot terminate the employee’s employment as well. It’s also unlawful to let go of the employee during an unpaid leave. These kinds of retaliatory measures are forbidden by law.
Most jobs are “at will,” meaning that workers can quit their jobs whenever they choose, for whatever reason, or without any reason at all as long as it’s not illegal. However, when it comes to terminating an employee’s contract from the employer’s side, there are major exceptions to the at-will rule and legal actions that could help you keep your employment or challenge your former company for wrongful termination. Here’s what you should know in order to protect yourself from being wrongfully terminated.
Always Know Your Rights
Knowing your rights is essential to protect yourself from wrongful termination. For example, an employee’s rights may be violated by their employer if they take unpaid time off work for reasons like illness or family emergency. In that regard, the state of California has enacted rules that govern employee leaves and the manner in which companies must respond to employee leave requests and absences. So, can an employer deny unpaid time off in California, and is there something you can do about it? Yes, depending on what’s being agreed on, they can, but if the employer agrees to it, the employee can’t be terminated during this time.
It’s crucial that you defend yourself if you suspect that your dismissal was unlawful and unfair. In addition to advising you on whether or not to make a claim, an employment lawyer with experience in such matters can assist you in doing so. An employment lawyer may also be able to help you recover any money you’ve lost through unemployment, severance, or damages.
Verbal Words On Paper
You are not an at-will employee if you have a formal contract or other document guaranteeing your position. The terms of your employment agreement can specify that you can be terminated only in the event of “good cause” or for other specified circumstances. You may also have assurances for your continued employment in the form of a formal offer letter or similar written document. Then you may be able to take legal action to make sure you keep your end of the bargain.
Gather Up Evidence If You Think You’ll Need Them
Nearly all cases of illegal termination involve the employer giving a falsified justification for the dismissal. In such a case, the burden shifts on the worker to demonstrate that the stated justification is untrue and that the actual justification is improper.
All too often, businesses will state that a worker was let go due to improper behavior or poor performance. Of course, if you’ve always done a fantastic job for your company and abided by their policies, this will be much less of a hassle. Gather up as much evidence as you can, including written correspondence with your superiors or HR, and copies of any memos or letters you’ve received from management addressing your performance, conduct, or disciplinary action.
You should collect anything that might be used as evidence, and you should never presume that you will be able to do so after your dismissal. Therefore, it is essential that you prepare and have your copies stored in a location from where you may get them when you are not at work. You will be able to leave in peace knowing that you have done everything in your power to secure your future if and when bad news arrives.
Keep in Touch With Your Former Colleagues
Witnesses in cases of wrongful termination typically include former coworkers. Current employees are typically unreliable or “hostile” witnesses for suing employees, which is unfortunate. This is due to the fact that current employees of the company being sued are reluctant to testify as witnesses because they fear retaliation and don’t want to cause difficulties at work.
Ex-workers, however, often provide reliable witnesses for accused employees in such cases. This is because ex-employees have less of a reason to hold back their true feelings and opinions when discussing their previous employer. This is why it’s wise to keep in touch with reputable previous workers.
It’s upsetting to lose your job for no apparent reason, and even more so if you suspect foul play was involved. If you were fired for an unfair reason, it was a wrongful termination. In some cases, the employer will use false information to make the employee look like the one at fault for the dismissal. You need to hire a professional lawyer to help you defend your rights and prove your innocence by gathering sufficient written evidence. In order to have enough witnesses, it is essential that you maintain your good behavior and cordial relationships with former coworkers.