As an employee, you work at will. That means you are free to leave your job whenever you want. You also can be fired without notice or cause. Despite this truth, you can’t be fired for an illegal reason. Know your employee rights in case you face a wrongful termination.
Read Your Employment Contract
Both you and your employer must honor the employment contract, including any part that suggests you are not an “at-will” employee. For instance, your contract might state that you can be fired if you do not achieve certain sales quotas or other benchmarks. Get fired for any other reason, and you may have grounds to file a wrongful termination suit.
Illegal Reasons for Terminating an Employee
Your employer cannot fire you for these reasons.
- Whistle blowing – In certain cases, you can violate your employment contract and be protected from termination. Examples of whistle blowing include informing an employer about sexual harassment, seeking to form a labor union, informing a federal agency of violations by your employer or participating in an official investigation of your employer’s practices.
- Discrimination – You cannot be fired because of your race, age, national origin, ethnic background, gender, disability, pregnancy or religion.
- Violation of employee protection laws – Your employer cannot legally fire you if the termination violates OSHA guidelines or the National Labor Relations Act. Also, you are protected from termination if you sit on a jury, take medical leave, serve in the military or take time off work to vote.
If you believe you’re fired for one of these reasons, take action.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) needs written documentation of a wrongful termination. Write down as many details as possible that support your case, including dates, times, locations and people involved. You should also keep written performance reviews and any disciplinary notices you receive.
File an Official Complaint
Your next step is to file an official complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Follow the time limit guidelines or your case will automatically be dismissed. If your case is merited, you can file an EEOC Charge of Discrimination form. The EEOC will then interview your former employer and attempt to settle the complaint.
Hire a Lawyer
While the EEOC handles most wrongful termination claims, investigations can take up to three years. You may decide to hire a law professional who will evaluate your wrongful termination claim, assist you in assembling proof of your case, file necessary paperwork and negotiate with your former employer.
Wrongful terminations are illegal. Understand your rights as an employee and the steps you should take if you believe you’re the victim of a wrongful termination.