Indiana is an at-will state, which means that employers can fire someone for any reason. These reasons can simply be that they don’t like you, they no longer need your position, they don’t want to keep paying, or, no reason at all. But at-will does not mean that they can fire you out of discrimination. When an employer fires someone because of their protective class or activity, which includes sex, religion, pregnancy, workers’ compensation, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Environmental Protection Agency, or Medicare fraud, that is considered a wrongful termination.
An employer can’t terminate you because you’re one of those protected classes, but it doesn’t mean that just because someone may be female and doesn’t get along with their male boss that it has to do with their sex. There has to be comments or activity that happened leading up to the termination that indicate the termination has to do with them being part of that protected class. If there is no connection, the employer is right to terminate.
To prove that you were wrongfully terminated, you need a documented issue in regards to that protected class. There are cases where people are using derogatory words or are fired because they are pregnant, but sometimes it can be more subversive. Referring to someone of a certain race as “you people” is one example. It can be something that is not blatant at first, but if there is a pattern of behavior and that person is being treated differently form everyone else, that can show that it’s wrongful termination.
It’s better for an employee to start documenting before they get terminated. You can often feel the ground crumbling, you know when there is turmoil starting and you can feel when it’s coming your way. When this happens, begin writing things down. If you make a verbal complaint, there is no way to prove that once you are terminated. Instead, write it in an email or file a letter with HR. If they keep insisting on calling, send a follow up email recapping what was said on the call. This puts it on the employer and makes it so they can’t deny that you reported it and that these things are happening. If everything is verbal, it’s a he said she said situation, and that makes it very difficult.
File a Claim and Contact an Attorney
Once a wrongful termination happens, you should contact an attorney. You also have the option of going to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if there is a discrimination issue. You can file a charge there first, because you can’t file a claim without filing a complaint with the agency first.
After you file a complaint, the EEOC will investigate them. This can take six months to a year for the investigation to be complete. You may have an opportunity to resolve the case at the EEOC level, but oftentimes the case gets dismissed as “right to sue” and you have 90 days to decide if you want to file in federal court.
It’s usually wise to hire an attorney to handle the EEOC charge, as there are many different aspects of filing with them. One wrong piece of information or something that is left out can lead to your case being dismissed. If you fail to hire an attorney before you do the charge, you are able to hire one after the fact, and they will be able to go in and amend anything that was wrong.
If you’ve been wrongfully terminated in Indiana, contact the experienced wrongful termination attorneys at Stewart & Stewart. Give us a call at 1-800-33-33-LAW or visit our website for more information.