Wrongful Termination Cont'd - The Limits of At-Will Employment
1. Understand the Limits of At-Will employment
Under most state laws across the country “at-will” is considered employment. This essentially means that you employer may fire you, and you may quit for any reason or no reason at all, however if at any point the reason goes against the discrimination act or your contract you can file for wrongful termination.
If you suspect you are being fired due to a characteristic that should be protected by the discrimination act such as your national origin, gender, race, colour, pregnancy, or age, this would be constituted as wrongful termination. In most states now this discrimination act protects people from being discriminated against due to their immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. These are federal laws.
2. Contractual Obligations to Be Filled
If you engage in any sort of contract whether it be verbal or written and your employer violates the terms of that contract through termination you may lay claim for wrongful termination. As an example of this; say you engage in a contract for 12 months with your employer, where after they can extend if happy with your performance, and they fire you prior to those 12 months finishing you could be eligible for wrongful termination.
The same goes for if your employer violates policy in your contract as stated, for example your employer is required to give you three written warnings for offences such as being late to work prior to termination, instead they only give you one written warning followed by termination. This would also constitute as a valid claim for wrongful termination.
3. What are retaliation acts against employees?
In general any form of retaliation from your employer that results in your termination is wrongful. Let’s look at this a little closer; if for example your employer asks you to engage in activity at work that you know to be illegal and thus refuse to do, and he/she fires you for failing to do so.
This is a valid claim for wrongful termination. Let me give you an example; you’re not allowed to work a double shift back-to-back and your boss asks you to do so, you refuse, so he/she uses that as a basis for termination. Another example of termination as retaliation would be if you blew the whistle on unsafe practices displayed by your employer, and upon finding out that it was you they terminate your contract.
4. What is protected leave?
In some state laws and federal laws allow employees to take leave for a number of reasons whilst being protected from termination. Examples of these are taking unpaid leave to take care of your family, or recover from any sort of illness, military members who are called to their duty, serving jury duty or taking time to vote.
If you take this time off at any point and your employer deems it as a basis for termination, this would constitute a valid claim for wrongful termination.
Okay so now you have an idea of what would define a wrongful termination lawsuit, what do you do next?
Get legal representation and file a claim. What can you expect thereafter? Let’s have a look.
Wrongful termination suits have the potential to be of high risk for the employer/company being sued due to the nature of this claim. It can often be difficult to prove wrongful termination however if the company has any history of doing so, they have any dirty or unsavory issues surrounding the company its very common for the company to want to settle out of court.
This not only saves them the legal fees but also helps to protect their image as a company to the public. Because even if they can’t prove that the claim is true or not, a company being called out for being racist (for example) would attract a lot of bad publicity from the media and thus a lot of unwanted attention from the public.
This is something that companies try very hard to steer away from of course, thus causing them to, more often than not, settle out of court with the ex-employee. So what can you expect for settlement? That depends on the wage loss, any lost benefits and emotional distress experienced. This is how the settlement is valued.
On occasion you can get your job back too! However in some cases, if you don’t you would end up unemployed.
So let’s discuss unemployment.