As a loyal employee, you expect that your employer will treat you fairly. Suddenly, your boss terminates your employment and you are left without a job. You may be left wondering what happened and why you were fired and wondering if there is anything you can do about the situation. Wrongful termination can happen when an employer terminates an employee for cause, violates an employee contract, or discriminates against the employee. Most often, those who are fired do not have a case against their employer.
What is Employment at Will?
Employment at will means that an employer can terminate employment at any time and for any reason. Most workers are employed at will. Employers do not need a reason to fire an at-will employee. They can fire someone as long as it is not done for discriminatory reasons. An employer does not need to give an employee advance warning of termination. Sometimes an employer may call the action a “layoff,” which is essentially the same thing as termination.
Employees who are covered by a contract or through a union bargaining agreement are not considered “at-will” employees. In these cases, the employer must abide by the terms of the agreement or contract when they discipline or terminate an employee. If the employer fails to follow the contract, it might be considered a wrongful termination. Companies often have policies in place that provide for disciplinary action before termination. Keep in mind that these policies are only internal and are generally not legally binding.
What if I Was a Victim of Discrimination?
If you were terminated due to discriminatory actions of your employer, it is likely a wrongful termination. According to federal law, it is illegal to discriminate in hiring, firing, or promotion based on:
- National Origin
- Genetic information
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) oversees workplace discrimination. If you feel that you were discriminated against and wrongfully terminated, you can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Generally, you must take this action before you can file a lawsuit. The law limits the time to file a charge, which is typically 180 days from the time of the incident. You may not always be entitled to any compensation for a wrongful termination.
What to do After a Wrongful Termination
After you were terminated by your employer, you may need to find out whether the action was wrongful. You can get guidance from an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will review the details of your situation and give you some options. Keep in mind that a wrongful termination lawsuit could be a lengthy process. In the meantime, you will need to move on and find other employment. Do not expect your employer to accept you to return to your former job, even if they terminated you illegally. You might be entitled to unemployment benefits, so you can discuss this with your lawyer.
Contact our employment law attorneys at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. for a review of your case and to discuss your available options.