Your job is your livelihood, and if you are like millions of people in the world, you probably live paycheck to paycheck. You go to work on time, work hard, and expect an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
If something unexpected happens and you lose your job without warning or for unjust reasons, that loss can throw a wrench in your entire life. You may find yourself juggling one bill to pay another, and the domino effect can have devastating consequences.
On top of your financial problems, you are probably dealing with the stress of having lost your job and trying to find new work and the emotional toll that this unforeseen event has taken on you and your family.
Losing your job is one thing, but when you don’t know why you lost it, or your suspicions are that you were wrongfully terminated for unfair, unethical, or illegal reasons, it can be even worse.
What Does it Mean to be Wrongfully Terminated?
When you enter your place of work, there are certain expectations that you subconsciously have about your employer and position, and expectations they have of you. Your employer probably assumes that you should do the job you were hired for without much issue, and you assume that they will make it possible for you to do your job by ensuring a proper work environment.
If you feel that you were fulfilling your end of the employer/employee contract and you were still let go without sufficient cause or reason, you may have been wrongfully terminated.
By definition, “wrongful termination” means that your contract of employment, even if you did not have one written up officially, has ended, or been terminated, by the employer. The “wrongful” part about it comes because the employer’s termination has breached at least one term of the employment contract, state provision, or rule that is laid out in employment law.
Examples of Wrongful Termination
Because these laws can vary from state to state, it is important to seek a knowledgeable expert in this field if you feel like you were a victim of wrongful termination. In general, however, here are a few common situations in which a wrongful termination was obvious.
1. You had an actual contract that stated termination required “cause.” Actual contracted jobs comprise a small percentage of employment. Most jobs are considered “at will,” meaning that the employer can fire their employee whenever they feel it necessary, provided that termination does not break any of the above state provisions or employment laws.
But if you were in one of those positions where a contract was signed, you may have documentation that proves wrongful termination. Many contracts have a provision that says employment must only be terminated for cause.
The cause can be specifically defined in the contract or may simply follow the state laws regarding misconduct or performance failure. It could also pertain to security and privacy issues. However, if you were fired without evidence of a “cause,” this could be considered wrongful termination.
If you were fired for no apparent reason, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your previous employer. Your attorney will be able to let you know for sure if your termination has the criteria necessary for this type of case.
2. Discriminatory acts resulted in your termination. You wouldn’t think with all the news media coverage on this topic that this still happens, but sadly employer discrimination still exists. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission makes it illegal for an employee to be fired based on their gender, age, race, citizenship status, or, in some states, even their sexual orientation.
If you feel like you were terminated because of something protected under the EEOC, you will have to prove that your employment was ended due to a discrimination. Because this can be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, it is best to find an expert attorney who can help you win your case and keep this discrimination from happening again to other employees.
3. You are fired due to medical reasons. Employers are prohibited from using your medical history against you. It may preclude them from hiring you in the first place, but if they do not make that obvious, it is hard to take a stand against it, since there could be numerous other reasons you were not selected for the position.
However, once you are hired, it is very difficult to fire you due to medical reasons. If you have to take an extended leave of absence for a medical condition, or a close relative’s medical condition, you can take out a Family Medical Leave of Absence. The FMLA protects you from being fired or disciplined while you were on leave.
You can still be fired while you are on medical leave, but not for that reason. Maybe they caught on that you were embezzling funds before you got sick, or sexually harassing another employee, or one of many reasons that are legal grounds for termination, but you cannot be fired for being sick.
You also can’t be fired for being pregnant, or having any other medical condition. The employer walks a very slippery slope when this happens. Your condition may begin to result in poor work performance, but if you disclose that you have a medical issue that is causing these problems, your employer is required to follow a process ensuring that you are accommodated for your condition if you have physician documentation.
If your medical condition was the reason you were let go from your position, be sure you have an attorney review the steps you took and those that your employer acted on before you walk away from the job completely.
4. You did the right thing in turning someone in for wrongdoing, and your employer retaliated against you. When you enter your place of employment, you probably assume that your morals and ethics won’t have to be compromised to do your job well. So, when you see something being done that you know is wrong, you should be able to safely report it.
This is not always the case, though. Often, employees are punished for doing the right thing, or doing what is now known as “whistleblowing.” Whistleblowers may be fired directly or they might be disciplined with less hours, bad performance reviews, or a demotion.
Any of these consequences are illegal, and whistleblowers fall under a separate category entirely. There is a federal program that has been instated specifically to protect whistleblowers. If you have filed a complaint against your employer and been retaliated against, talk to your attorney as soon as possible to go over your rights and the ways you are protected.
5. You were terminated because you filed a worker’s compensation claim. Along the same lines as the medical history and FMLA protections, you cannot be fired simply for getting injured on the job and seeking help for paying your medical bills or being out on leave.
If you are fired while you are recovering from your injury, or your employer feels that your injury would result in you being unable to perform your job, they need to prove that your termination was not due to the worker’s compensation case.
While these are some of the most common wrongful termination causes, they are in no way a comprehensive list. Speak to your attorney if you have any reason to believe your job ended due to an illegal termination.
What Happens in a Wrongful Termination Case?
If you and your attorney believe that your situation has merit, you can file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your ex-employer. Those employees who successfully prove that they have been wrongfully terminated may be entitled to benefits such as job recovery if they still want to work there, back pay, damage for compensation of suffering, and other expenses.
As a general rule, many of these cases can be mediated before they have to go to the courtroom for a civil trial. In mediation, the final agreement of a settlement and the overall valuation of a wrongful termination claim will be based on wage loss, lost benefits, and emotional distress and mental anguish.
Money is not always the solution, though. Often, unhappy employees who pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit are not looking for monetary reimbursement. Instead, they want closure for the pain they suffered, and they want to keep the defendant from being able to do the same thing in the future to others.
Protect Your Rights
Your livelihood is not something to be taken lightly. When someone threatens it illegally, you need an attorney who can assist you and protect your rights.
Our attorneys at Hershey Injury Law can help you understand how to move ahead with your wrongful termination lawsuit, what you may be entitled to, and how to ensure that you have a fair review of your case.
Call us today to schedule your free consultation to see how we can help you during this stressful time.