If you’ve recently been laid off or fired from your job, do you know if your termination was legal?
Although the majority of employment contracts are at-will (which means the employee or employer can end the relationship under any circumstance), there are some important factors you need to be aware of when determining whether or not you have been the victim of wrongful termination:
What does wrongful termination mean?
When an employee claims wrongful termination, he or she believes the firing breached a contract with their employer or some type of public law. If an employee was fired and had an employment contract requiring termination for a cause, that employee can sue for arbitrary discharge (which means being fired without reasoning).
The most common type of wrongful discharge claims occur under at-will employment contracts. In this case, the terminated employee can sue for wrongful discharge if they can provide an implied contract for permanent employment along with the arbitrary discharge.
If the employee chooses to base the claim on public law, the most common claim is termination because of discrimination or whistle-blowing. If an employee is fired because they refused to break the law, the employee can sue their employer for wrongful termination.
What if my employer promised not to fire me?
In the workplace, there are typically written and implied contracts created between the employee and employer. If you have a written contract with your employer, this will strengthen your argument when suing for wrongful termination. For example, you could have a signed a contract saying that your employer would need a valid cause to terminate you. If you have this type of document, it can be used to support your argument.
On the other hand, there are implied contracts that are more difficult to prove. This could be a contract based upon a verbal agreement between you and your employer. These types of contracts are hard to enforce because there isn’t a written document to support it. When trying to prove an implied contract exists, there are number of factors to be considered such as the duration of your employment or the frequency of your promotions. These factors can be used to argue your case for wrongful employment.
What if my employer violated public policy or law?
When an employer violates public policy or law, these termination cases are much stronger to argue. In the case your employer fired you for an illegal reason such as discrimination, whistle-blowing, defamation, or an absence due to public policy (such as jury duty), you may have a valid claim for suing your employer. If you believe you were fired because of any of these reasons, you should seek help from a lawyer immediately.
How do I get more information about termination?
If you’re not sure about your rights as an employee, contact the human resources department of your company. Even if they’re in the process of filing your termination, they can answer your questions and inform you about any benefits you’ll qualify for. After determining if your termination was unlawful, you need to seek remedies for your case and obtain legal assistance as soon as possible.