Employees who follow the rules of the workplace, show up to work on time, and give their best can sometimes be blindsided with a call to the human resources office. During the meeting, these seemingly upstanding workers get word that they’re being terminated.
So what happened that led this seemingly upstanding employee to lose their job? It could be that the individual was wrongfully terminated.
Wrongful termination happens when an employer terminates an employee driven by motives of discrimination or retaliation. And while in some cases you might be glad to leave that employment situation, a termination could make it more difficult for you to find your next job.
A wrongful termination lawsuit can help cover your expenses while you seek future employment. With a wrongful termination case ruling in your favor, you also might have an easier time finding new employment because it will be clear you weren’t terminated for breaking any rules or underperforming.
Knowing when you were wrongfully terminated and when your termination was legal and ethical can be challenging. That’s why it’s helpful to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable employment law attorney. Your attorney can review all documentation and information related to your employment and subsequent termination to determine whether you can sue for wrongful termination.
You might be able to sue your former employer if you were terminated for reasons related to discrimination. Federal law specifically protects people with certain characteristsin from employment discrimination. You cannot be discriminated against based on:
- Age (employees ages 40 and older)
- National origin
- Veteran status
If, in the course of your employment, you ever feel like your manager or coworkers are treating you differently because of any of these qualities, you should report such bias to your employer’s HR team or a member of management.
Documenting bias in the workplace could help you later on if you face a wrongful termination. There should be records of your reports of bias within your employee file, which could prove a trend of bias toward you leading up to your termination.
Your employer should not use termination as a way of punishing you for reporting illegal activity, sexual harassment, a workers’ compensation claim, unfair compensation, or any other concerns. As an employee, you should be free to raise concerns about the business’s operations, your manager, or any other elements of your time spent at work without risk of retaliation.
Terminations that are the result of retaliation are wrongful. Here are some common retaliation scenarios.
Reporting Illegal Activity
If you become aware of illegal activity within the company, you have an obligation to report that activity. You should not be threatened with employment termination for reporting such activity. If, after reporting the activity, you are suddenly terminated, you should view this termination as suspicious and contact a wrongful termination attorney right away.
No employee should have to face unwanted sexual advances at work, and reporting sexual harassment should never be a reason for termination. Employees who recently filed a sexual harassment claim with their employer and then were terminated shortly thereafter should discuss the matter with an attorney. Acting quickly could help protect other employees from undergoing continuous sexual harassment or other types of mistreatment.
A Workers’ Compensation Claim
When you get injured on the job, your medical bills should be covered under workers’ compensation coverage. If your employer tries to get you to avoid filing a claim or seems upset that you filed a claim, pay close attention to any actions that follow. Workers who are out on workers’ compensation leave and then are terminated upon their return should discuss the matter with an attorney. The termination could be considered wrongful due to it being retaliation over your workers’ compensation claim.
When an employee feels they are not being well compensated for their work, they should be able to enter negotiations without fear of retaliation. An employer cannot terminate an employee who raises concerns about compensation. If you’ve been terminated for compensation negotiations, discuss the matter with a wrongful termination attorney, as this might be a retaliation situation.
Documents You Need in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
When you meet with your wrongful termination lawyer, they may ask to see a variety of documents related to your employment. While you don’t necessarily need to have these for initial discussions, they can certainly be helpful.
- Personnel file: after you’ve been terminated, request your personnel file from your employer. This can help you provide details about your hiring, termination, and performance reviews to your attorney.
- Company handbook: in the employee handbook, you should find anti-discrimination or harassment policies. You might find proof within these policies that your employer broke their own rules.
- Evidence of discrimination or harassment: emails, photos, or other physical evidence of discrimination or retaliation can help strengthen your case. Try to take any of this documentation with you when you leave your employer.
- Witness accounts: if any witnesses can speak to situations in the office where your employer showed their bias against you, try to capture those accounts. It’s helpful to do this shortly after your wrongful termination so that the details are fresh in their minds.
Ready to Explore Your Legal Options for Wrongful Termination?
If you don’t have these documents currently, or even if you’re not sure whether you’ve been wrongfully terminated, that’s okay. You can still reach out to a wrongful termination attorney to start the discussion and learn more about wrongful termination.
Stewart & Stewart is a law firm with a talented team of attorneys. We specialize in helping wrongfully terminated individuals seek justice and compensation for their experiences. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about our services and how we can fight for your rights.