Wrongful termination is a general term for when an employee is unfairly or illegally fired from his or her job. Those who believe they are a victim of wrongful termination can file a claim in the court, citing examples and evidence of illegal or unfair reasoning. There are many state and federal laws in place to protect employees from this type of termination, like workplace discrimination.
Do you believe wrongful termination applies to you? Continue reading to learn more about wrongful dismissal, including the requirements and how discrimination laws can help.
The legal details surrounding wrongful termination can be tricky to decipher, especially since states may have different laws in place. In most states, wrongful dismissal is an instance of firing an employee based on any of the following:
- A violation of a work contract – Applies when the terms of the contract were violated by the employer (like wage agreements or work periods)
- Discrimination – The employee can’t be fired for reasons connected to discrimination
- Retaliation – The employee can’t be fired for reporting illegal activity, harassment or filing a complaint
Each of these wrongful termination examples has its own set of criteria that the situation must display. And each state may define each situation differently. But federal law always trumps state laws.
Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of:
- Sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy)
- National origin
- Genetic information
This means you cannot be fired on the grounds of any category listed above.
Wrongful termination must have evidence that something illegal happened. It is important to understand the difference between “illegal” and “unfair,” because the legal verbiage in most state legislatures does not consider “unfair” termination to be wrongful.
If an employee is fired out of the blue, it may seem unfair. But it may not be “illegal” if there is no work contract present. This is known as “at will” employment, and it is the most common type of employment out there.
With at will employment, the employer has the right to dismiss the employee for any reason, as long as it is not illegal (i.e. meeting one of the categories discussed above). So, while it may seem unfair or unreasonable to be fired for no reason at all, it is not wrongful termination unless there is evidence something illegal occurred.