Wrongful termination is a tricky lawsuit situation for many reasons. Some wrongful termination scenarios are difficult for the employee to recognize, which may prevent someone from consulting with an attorney. Others have spotty documentation and, in some wrongful termination situations, the employee waits too long to file an action against their employer and the statute of limitations in Indiana has passed.
The most important aspect of being able to prove wrongful termination is to pursue a potential claim quickly after you’ve been fired. Discussing the matter with a skilled attorney right away means the details are still fresh in your mind and documentation is easy to collect.
Determining if You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated
Regretfully, wrongful terminations happen all the time. When an employee is fired, there are two underlying reasons that can classify the firing as a “wrongful termination.” These include discrimination of a protected class and retaliation.
Being in a protected class means that an employer cannot fire an employee based on their:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Age (40 or older)
- National origin
- Genetic information
An employer who tries to remove an employee for any of these reasons is subject to a wrongful termination lawsuit based on discrimination. This list also applies to job applicants who do not receive a job solely because of one of these characteristics.
The laws prohibiting discrimination are nothing new and no employer can claim they aren’t aware of these governing laws. They date back to 1963 and when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act made it illegal for an employer to discriminate based on gender or race for purposes of hiring, promoting, or firing an employee. The laws concerning discrimination have only grown and expanded, especially as new bias enters the workplace due to other personal characteristics.
Now that you can identify discrimination in the workplace, let’s define retaliation and how your wrongful termination could be the result of retaliation.
Laws have been passed that protect whistleblowers in the workplace. This means that if you made a report to your manager or HR about misbehavior in the workplace, such as stealing or sexual harassment, you cannot be fired for reporting a claim.
In some cases, these whistleblowers are the only way that an employer can learn about such misbehavior. This also provides the employer with the opportunity to correct any hostile work environments. Therefore, discouraging this reporting through retaliation is not in the best interest of creating a safe and enjoyable work environment.
Identifying Discrimination and Retaliation in a Wrongful Termination
Some employees look at these lists and think “that could never happen to me.” You remember your employment fondly and the people you met and the projects you worked on. But don’t be fooled into believing your termination was nothing but a sign that it’s time to move on.
Here’s how to spot discrimination and retaliation in your employment termination.
- Timing: If you just recently had a change in status to one of the protected classes listed in the section above or you recently reported poor behavior or criminal activity to your employer, you might be the victim of wrongful termination.
- Job changes: Sometimes an employer makes changes to an employee’s job before firing them. This is done to show how upset they are about the employee’s whistleblower activity or as a way to discriminate against them due to bias. Watch out for these changes in your job. It might be a demotion, or it might be a change to less favorable working hours.
- Your employer spoke poorly of you: Defamation of character can be a sign of wrongful termination. This might mean that you start hearing rumors about your work or your performance from others in the workplace. You might be the victim of wrongful termination if you suddenly start hearing these things and then you are let go from your position shortly thereafter.
If you suspect wrongful termination, contact an attorney immediately. Your attorney will guide you through collecting documentation to prove your wrongful termination and fight for your rights.
How an Attorney Proves Wrongful Termination
Employment law attorneys know where to find the evidence of wrongful termination. They’ll help you uncover your employer’s wrongful actions and prove them in court. Here’s how an attorney proves wrongful termination.
- Employment documents: When documents related to your employment tell the story of a faithful hardworking employee, there’s usually something not right about that termination.
- Employee handbook and policies: In addition to your employment documents, your attorney will also review your workplace policies and employee handbook to look for the reasoning behind your firing and how the employer instructed you to act. If you didn’t violate any rules, you’ve probably been the victim of wrongful termination.
- Details leading up to your wrongful termination: Meet with an attorney right after you’ve been fired to see if your case might qualify as wrongful termination. At this point, your attorney will ask many questions about the details leading up to your termination. This will help the attorney identify any discrimination or retaliation from the employer.
Your attorney will also ensure that you take the proper actions to file your lawsuit in a timely manner. This process is confusing and difficult to do without an attorney on your side. That’s why it’s important that you discuss the matter with an attorney as soon as possible.
At Stewart & Stewart, we know the far-reaching repercussions of losing a job. That’s why we fight hard to protect your rights and secure a settlement to help you get back on your feet after a wrongful termination. Schedule your free consultation to get started.