You have been with the company for years. Every workday, you show up on time and do what needs to be done. You, as a valued employee, are well-respected by your co-workers and appreciate your job. Then, it hits you like a freight train—you are terminated and now need to focus on a new way to provide for yourself and your family.
What do you do if you are fired from a job and believe it is wrongful termination? What employment records do you need to start building a case against your employer?
Wrongful termination is a problem in the United States. Thousands of people are removed from a job for illegal reasons each year. Unfortunately, many of these events are not adequately documented or brought to the courts. As a result, employers continue to terminate people without justifiable cause.
If you believe your employer terminated you for illegal reasons, you need to speak to a wrongful termination lawyer at your earliest convenience. A qualified attorney at Stewart & Stewart will help you understand the concept of wrongful termination and determine if your case is worth pursuing damages. If you do have a valid case, you’ll need to gather the correct employment records.
Wrongful Termination in the United States
People are laid off or removed from a job every day in the United States. In many cases, the termination is justifiable and perfectly legal, as most jobs in the country are defined as “at-will” agreements. This type of contract states that an employer may fire you at any time and for any reason.
However, there are many exceptions to the rule, and state and federal laws protect workers in Indiana. Pursuing a wrongful termination claim is the only way you can hold employers accountable and get the compensation you deserve for being fired illegally.
As a result, if you get fired from a job, it is extremely wise to collect as much documentation as possible about the incident. Once you document the decision-making process that went into your termination, you can begin to understand whether the firing was legal or illegal.
Even if you believe you were fired legally, having a paper trail helps to protect your workplace rights. It provides evidence of what exactly happened and why you were asked to leave the position, which can explain the circumstances of your termination to a future employer, if necessary.
Ways To Hold Employers Accountable
Once you receive a termination notice, you need to start collecting documentation regarding the circumstances.
First, you must document all the details surrounding the firing. In some circumstances, it is obvious why an individual got fired. It could be because of actions that displayed a lack of discipline (i.e. showing up to work drunk) or poor work performance. However, the reason for the termination is not always apparent, and wrongdoing can only be proven through a paper trail.
Consequently, make sure that you keep a record of each work-related event surrounding your hiring and firing. Anything like performance reviews, commendations or reprimands, salary increases or decreases, and informal comments from a supervisor can go a long way in wrongful termination lawsuits.
The more details you can put down on paper, the better. It is also vital to note the date, time, and location of any events applicable to your job performance or the termination. While your recollection of what happened is important, it has much more substantial value if you can back up your claims with records like copies of employment policies, memos, or reviews.
The critical thing to remember is that you must have a legal right to collect these documents. Therefore, you cannot take any record that the employer considers confidential or off-limits. However, you may request to get access to your personal file as well as copies of any report or review within the file. There are legal consequences if the employer denies you this right or tampers with the files.
In addition to getting access to your personal file, you should also make extra copies of the records. Therefore, if the employer becomes combative later down the road, you will have the necessary documentation to prove wrongful termination in a court of law.
Written Explanation of Job Termination
It is acceptable and encouraged to request a former employer to provide a written explanation of your termination. You can compare the reasoning of the employer with your assessment of why you got fired. If the accounts do not match, it’s smart to speak with a wrongful termination lawyer to review the legitimacy of your case and whether you should pursue legal damages.
Additionally, some states have service letter laws that require employers to provide former employees with a letter that describes specific aspects of their employment. This includes work history, pay rate, and reasons for termination. Indiana does have a service letter law that requires employers to provide a letter stating whether an employee resigned or was involuntarily discharged upon request. Therefore, you should submit a written letter to your employer if you worked in Indiana or another state with a service letter law.
If you are unable to receive a service letter, you may reach out to the person responsible for the firing and request a letter of understanding. It is an excellent idea to pursue this option if you have received mixed explanations regarding the basis of your termination.
Regardless of how much or how little documentation you can obtain, make sure that you keep it safe. You’ll need your employment records to build a case for wrongful termination should you decide to pursue legal action.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and Wrongful Termination
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has resulted in millions of lost jobs. However, state and federal laws still protect employees from termination due to discrimination or other illegal reasons. If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated from your job (or the circumstances around the incident are contradictory), you should reach out to an attorney at Stewart & Stewart.
We represent victims of wrongful termination and are fully prepared to evaluate your case, whether you were fired in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, as a result of discrimination, or for another illegal reason. Speak to a lawyer at our firm today. We are available for an initial consultation with absolutely no commitment or fees required.