Indiana is an at-will state for employment, which means you could be let go from a job at any time. However, an employer cannot terminate your employment as a form of discrimination or retaliation. Additionally, some employers may even coerce their employees into resigning.
These are all unethical practices and could leave the employer open to a wrongful termination lawsuit. If you’ve recently lost your job for an unlawful reason, you’re entitled to take legal action and recover a number of damages.
What Qualifies as Discriminatory Firing?
Federal law prohibits employers from firing employees based on several protected characteristics:
- Age (for employees over the age of 40)
- National origin
- Genetic information
- Citizenship status
For most of the protected characteristics listed above, the law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. When it comes to age discrimination, an employer must have at least 20 employees for the law to apply. Finally, citizenship status is a protected characteristic once an employer has four employees.
What Qualifies as Retaliation in Wrongful Terminations?
Remember that you have rights as an employee. If you go to human resources to report that you believe you were wrongfully passed over for a promotion because of your gender, religion, or other protected characteristic, the employer cannot discipline you for filing such a complaint. If they did fire you for that complaint, it could constitute retaliation.
Your employer also cannot fire you for testifying in court or participating in an investigation into discrimination in the workplace, even if you aren’t the victim of such discrimination.
Before you can file a wrongful termination lawsuit, you must file a complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. This commission seeks to ensure employers do not discriminate in the workplace in Indiana.
Indiana Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Damages
There are five main kinds of damages you can seek as part of an Indiana wrongful termination lawsuit. These damages include the following:
1. Lost Pay
These damages include any wage payments you would have earned had you not been wrongfully terminated. This might encompass salary or hourly pay, overtime, or additional compensation your employer withheld as a result of your termination.
2. Lost Benefits
Employment benefits can be just as expensive as paying an employee’s salary. These benefits include health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, pension plans, stock options, profit sharing, 401k plan payments, and any other benefits your employer offers. This area can be slightly murky because it’s difficult to know the exact dollar amount your employer owes you. However, employment law attorneys are skilled at calculating these expenses.
3. Emotional Distress or Pain and Suffering
Emotional distress is also referred to as “pain and suffering.” You can request that your wrongful termination lawsuit include a payment for pain and suffering you’ve sustained as a result of your firing. Generally, judges and juries only award this type of compensation when an employer was especially harmful, cruel, or treated an employee poorly for an extended time. Emotional distress compensation is up to the jury’s discretion to award and select an appropriate amount.
4. Punitive Damages
If the employer’s actions in your wrongful termination were especially egregious, the judge and jury can order that the employer pay punitive damages. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the employer and aid in deterring such actions by the employer in the future. For wrongful termination cases, punitive damages are rare and often require a larger burden of proof for the plaintiff to win.
5. Attorney Fees
Another award you can seek in a wrongful termination lawsuit is attorney fees. This is another relatively rare type of compensation in a wrongful termination lawsuit. Many employment law attorneys take on a case based on a contingent fee of a percentage of your settlement if you win the case.
Steps to Take After a Wrongful Termination
After experiencing a wrongful termination, you should begin to collect some information to provide to your employment law attorney. Here are three steps that are important for documenting your termination and related employment information:
- Request Your Employment Records: contact your former employer and request your employment records. Specifically, ask to see any documentation related to your termination. You’ll also want information regarding any reviews or reports from management about your performance.
- Write Down What You Remember: think back through your employment with the company. Write down important dates, locations, or names of employees who were involved in your employment. Consider performance reviews, reprimands, salary negotiations, or casual encounters with other management members that felt off.
- Contact an Employment Law Attorney: contact a skilled and experienced wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible. You could be entitled to damages and back pay for your wrongful termination.
Speak With a Wrongful Termination Attorney Today
Stewart & Stewart is a team of skilled attorneys ready to help you weigh the pros and cons of seeking damages after a wrongful termination. We offer a free initial consultation so you can learn whether your case might qualify as wrongful termination. We’re eager to walk through the details of your case and advise you on your legal options. Contact us now to schedule your free consultation.