From bad bosses to violations of contracts, wrongful termination happens more often than you may think. From claims of discrimination to protecting whistleblowers, an employer can’t just fire you on the spot without considering your legal rights.
Every day, thousands of employees are fired in ways that go against the law, yet many may not even realize that they have a case against their employer until it’s too late.
That’s why in this post we’ll be looking at seven wrongful termination examples. We’ll dive into what’s illegal and what’s not when it comes to a firing, and what you should consider when assessing if your case is strong enough to take action.
So, if you’ve ever been wrongfully terminated, or simply want to stay informed of the law so you can be prepared when the time comes, let’s dig into wrongful termination—and learn how to see if you have a case.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination has been defined as the ending or dismissal of an employee in a way that violates the law or is considered unfair to the employee. This may either be a breach of the company’s contract terms or a violation of laws regarding discrimination and harassment. Employers who fire employees in violation of statutes or contractual agreements can be held liable for wrongful termination. It also happens when there is a violation of public policy.
One side of the argument is that it’s natural for employers to want control over their own staff, but they are still expected to adhere to laws and basic human rights when doing so. Employees have certain rights and expectations from their employers, which should not be compromised even during the process of firing an individual. A wrongful termination implies that those rights have been violated in some way.
From the employer’s side, however, it can be argued that unless their terms state otherwise, companies have no obligation to maintain employment with any particular employee. This can be especially true in cases where they feel they must let someone go due to downsizing or restructuring processes within the organization. In such cases, a degree of flexibility regarding employment needs can help avoid accusations of wrongful termination.
When an Employee is Terminated Unlawfully
When an employee is terminated unlawfully, it means the employer has violated either state or federal labor laws. Depending on each situation, some employees have the legal grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer. Such cases can involve discrimination and a violation of an employment contract. Employees may also bring a case against their employers for retaliating or for breach of good faith and fair dealing.
Discrimination occurs when an employee is fired for being a member of a protected class, meaning they are discriminated against for their race, gender, age, or other factor. In this case, there may be sufficient evidence that the firing was based on facts like these rather than job performance-related issues. Violation of an employment contract is another type of wrongful termination because employment contracts often state when and why an employee can be dismissed from their job. If a supposed breach in the contract occurred, then the employee may be able to claim unauthorized dismissal. Additionally, if an employee is fired in return for filing a complaint about something at work (such as not receiving overtime pay), the act is considered retaliation against the employee, which can be deemed unlawful. Lastly, employers must uphold good faith and fair dealing with their workforce. Failing to do so could give employees grounds to sue their employers for wrongful termination if they had been let go as a result of that action.
What Are the Legal Grounds for Wrongful Termination?
When it comes to wrongful termination, there are legal grounds that must be established in order for a person to successfully prove they were wrongfully terminated. Wrongful termination is the illegal dismissal of an employee due to discrimination, breach of contract, or violation of public policy. It should be noted that not all terminations are wrongful, and the burden is on the former employee to prove their case.
When it comes to discrimination, employers must not discriminate against protected classes of employees, such as those defined by race, age, disability status, and family medical history, among others. If an employer fires or otherwise discriminates against an employee because they belong to a protected class, this could qualify as wrongful termination. In addition, employers may not retaliate against someone who has filed a complaint about discrimination in the workplace.
Contracts are also important when proving wrongful termination. Employment contracts often outline the reasons for which an employee can be terminated from their position and set forth any restrictions on how the company can terminate an at-will employee. If an employer terminates an employee in violation of a contract or an implied promise based on past performance, then it may also be considered wrongful termination.
7 Examples of Wrongful Termination
When an employer terminates a worker for unfair or unlawful reasons, it’s illegal—and it’s called wrongful termination. In some cases, an employee may have more than one cause of action if multiple laws have been violated in the firing. Here are seven examples of wrongful termination to consider when determining if you have a case.
Example 1: Firing due to pregnancy or childbirth. One example of wrongful termination can occur when an employer fires a woman because they knew she was pregnant or recently gave birth. Although employers are generally allowed to fire workers at will, firing someone because of their pregnancy is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as other federal and state laws that protect pregnant workers from discrimination.
Example 2: Firing due to racial discrimination. Employers may not fire employees simply because of their race or ethnicity, according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In some cases, the employee may be able to bring a claim for discriminatory wrongful termination even if management wasn’t aware that disparate treatment was taking place. If a pattern of discriminatory practices exists within the organization and is causing colleagues with similar backgrounds and qualifications to be treated differently than others, that could serve as evidence in a successful discrimination claim.
Example 3: Firing due to whistleblowing. It’s illegal for an employer to terminate an employee in retaliation for whistleblowing activities, such as reporting harassment, fraud, or safety violations within the workplace. Some state laws also offer protections against retaliatory firings when employees report certain types of workplace misconduct outside their workplace roles, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim or challenging their employer’s refusal to pay wages.
Example 4: Firing due to age discrimination. It is unlawful for employers to make any hiring decisions based on age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Additionally, employers are prohibited from terminating employees using intentionally biased performance reviews or evaluations simply because they are over 40 years old. The ADEA also prohibits employers from retaliating against current employees who protest age discrimination among their peers in the office environment, either through litigation or by filing complaints with governing bodies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Example 5: Firing due to disability discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their disability status or another protected class — such as religion, race, or national origin — when making decisions regarding recruiting and hiring processes, including those related to firings. It’s important for companies to take extra care not just when making decisions about hiring someone who has a disability but also when deciding whether they should keep an existing employee on their payroll who has expressed concern about having a disability care plan put into place by their managerial team.
Example 6: Firing due to medical leave taken under FMLA. Employers may be liable for wrongful termination when terminating employees after they take a medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers are allowed no more than 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave per year without putting at risk any job-related benefits that were previously in existence prior to taking leave, which makes it illegal for an employer to terminate any worker who is legally exercising rights granted under this law enacted by Congress in 1993;
Example 7: Firing due to jury duty service. Wrongful termination may also occur if an employee’s employer terminates them because they served jury duty – either during or after service – or because they refused or failed to participate in the jury selection process despite being properly summoned or subpoenaed. The majority of states have statutes that specifically address this issue, protecting any citizen’s right to perform their civic duty and participate in various legal proceedings throughout the court system regardless of their assigned employment status while carrying out this obligation.
Discrimination or Retaliation
Discrimination or retaliation is a common factor in wrongful termination cases. The protected classes of discrimination are based on race, gender, age, and religious preferences, among others. For some employees, discrimination may have been the main reason they were fired. For example, an employer cannot use race as a basis for termination unless they have proof that it was performance-related. Similarly, employers cannot deny an employee promotion based on their gender or terminate them due to their religious beliefs.
When proving discrimination as the reason for wrongful termination, it is important to remember that employers can’t always be held responsible. Instead, the employer must show they made an effort to address any potential complaints from the employee before taking action. Also, the employer should be able to show proof of how long the employee worked for them and how decisions were made before they were fired.
When discussing retaliation cases in relation to wrongful termination, there are often two sides to the argument: one from the employer and one from the employee. From the employer’s side, their goal is usually to enforce company policies and protect its business operations. On the other hand, some employees may feel that they are being retaliated against if they are fired shortly after voicing a complaint about their working conditions or after filing a complaint with government agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In order to prove a case of wrongful termination due to retaliation or discrimination, an employee must be able to show a causal connection between their job-related activities and the negative action taken by the employer towards them. This includes demonstrating that similar incidents of discrimination or retaliation took place at their workplace prior to their own incident. To bring up a case of wrongful termination due to discrimination or retaliation, employees should seek legal counsel and consult with an employment lawyer who can best explain their rights and possible options available in court.
The next section discusses breaches of employment contracts as another cause for wrongful termination lawsuits. Many employers implement stringent written agreements that contain clauses specifying details related to terminating employees; these contracts should be closely reviewed for any contractual violations when considering filing a claim for wrongful termination due to breach of contract.
Breaches of Employment Contract
Employment contracts are legally binding documents that set out the rights and responsibilities of both the employer and the employee. If an employer breaches the terms of an employment contract, it could be considered a wrongful termination.
When examining a wrongful termination based on a breach of contract, the court looks at the clear conditions in the employee agreement to determine if the employer has violated their obligations under the law. Examples of a breach include failing to pay wages for time worked or promised bonuses and commissions; using confidential information disclosed in the contract against an employee; or changing job duties without due notice. A breach of an employment contract might also include terminating someone without following predetermined guidelines, such as giving adequate notice.
Actions taken by either party must be consistent with what is written in an employment contract. Depending on the language included in a specific employment agreement, improper termination can include any action that goes against what’s outlined in the document. The court examines whether each of the parties involved (i.e., the employer and employee) followed all legal requirements spelled out in the original agreement and documentation provided when it was created.
While employers have a right to terminate staff members if they feel it is appropriate, firing someone who has a valid employment contract is more difficult than those who do not since it requires going against agreed upon terms that were originally established as part of the agreed relationship. From an employee’s perspective, if they can demonstrate that their employers have not met their obligations under an employment contract, then this may provide grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
To determine if an employer has violated an employment contract, employees should look closely at any written agreement between them and their company and document relevant facts from terminated staff members or other witnesses connected to their case before pursuing any legal action against their former employer.
The next section will discuss another form of possible wrongful termination: violation of company policies.
Violation of Company Policies
The complex world of employment law can be confusing for employees and employers alike. One area of confusion is wrongful termination due to a violation of company policies. There are multiple examples of this type of wrongful termination, and it’s important for both employers and employees to understand the laws and their rights.
Company policies often dictate employee behavior and protocol in the workplace. When an employer terminates an employee for violating these policies, certain laws kick in that must be taken into account. To determine if this type of wrongful termination has taken place, the employee must demonstrate that he or she was unaware of the policy or that the policy was not clearly communicated. Also, if the company policy has nothing to do with job performance, the employer should demonstrate due process with written or verbal warnings before taking any action to terminate an employee.
Employers who violate these laws may find themselves facing serious consequences, such as hefty fines or even criminal charges, depending on the situation. It’s important for companies to make sure they are aware of all state and federal laws concerning employment practices prior to any termination. Knowing the facts can help protect both parties from unnecessary legal issues down the line.
Do You Have a Legal Case for Wrongful Termination?
Deciding if you have a legal case for wrongful termination can be tricky. It is important to review the exact details of your situation and consult with an experienced employment attorney to determine if you have grounds for a legal claim.
Under state law, employees may generally be wrongfully terminated if: (1) Your employer has violated an employment contract or a written company policy. For example, an employer who terminates an employee without cause and does not provide severance pay as specified in the employment contract may be held liable for breach of contract. (2) Your employer has breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. This implies that employers should not take advantage of the power they have over their employees. Depending on the nature of their action, they could be found in violation of this promise if they terminate an employee without giving them full notice or do not provide them with any explanation as to why they are being terminated. (3) The employee was discriminated against based on race, gender, age, disability, national origin, or religion. It is illegal to fire someone because they belong to any of these groups in order to avoid potential liability under state and federal employment laws. Additionally, certain state laws prohibit employers from firing employees because of their political views or affiliations, sexual orientation, or union activities.
There are also exceptions to these three rules depending on the state where the employee worked; for instance, some states allow employers to terminate at-will employees without providing any reason for doing so. Even when this is allowed by law, however, there must still be no violation of public policy or other laws protecting employee rights for wrongful termination claims to be successful. Furthermore, it is important to note that simply feeling like you were wrongfully terminated does not necessarily mean that you have any legal recourse against your employer.
The best way to determine whether you have a valid legal case is to contact an experienced employment lawyer, who will review your situation and advise whether filing a lawsuit would be worthwhile. In some cases, the lawyer may suggest negotiating with your former employer before pursuing a lawsuit in order to reach an acceptable resolution outside of court.
Now that we have discussed the signs that may indicate that you have been wrongfully terminated, let’s take a look at how to build a case for wrongful termination in the next section.
How to Build a Case for Wrongful Termination
Document Employment Termination
As part of building a case for wrongful termination, document any details related to the termination and your dismissal. Gather any relevant documents, such as emails, letters, severance agreements, and performance reviews, that may relate to the termination. Additionally, take note of any conversations you had with your employer about your dismissal. Having all these documents at the ready can help provide proof in an allegation of wrongful termination.
Contact an Employment Lawyer
An employment lawyer will be able to advise you on whether or not you have a legitimate wrongful termination claim and how to proceed if you wish to file one. If a lawyer determines you may have a valid case, they will be able to provide guidance on filing a complaint with the state agency responsible for handling discrimination cases or suggest other routes like arbitration or mediation instead of taking it to court.
Understand Your Rights
You should understand and know how your legal rights were violated in order to prove wrongful termination occurred. This includes knowing state laws concerning permissible reasons an employer can fire someone, as well as federal and state laws that protect workers from illegal discrimination based on race, gender, age, national origin, and other protected statuses. Even if the firing was due to poor performance or misconduct, there is still a chance that certain actions from employers, such as harassment or intimidation, could have led to the employee’s unfavorable outcome.
Evidence crucial for showing wrongful termination can include personal witnesses who can attest to the fact that discrimination was involved in the firing process. The evidence must also demonstrate that something other than job-related issues like poor performance played any role in the decision to terminate your employment by your employers. Witnesses who can back up this version of events are important in making sure your case stands up in court.
To successfully build a case for wrongful termination, you must prove what sort of damages were incurred in losing your job through no fault of your own. To do so, you must be able to demonstrate how much money has been lost due to being wrongfully terminated or current wages being diminished due to lack of experience or seniority compared with where they would be now had they not been fired illegally. Additionally, take the emotional distress caused by losing their job and the impact on their career prospects going forward into consideration when determining damages in a case against an employer for wrongful termination.
Get Justice for Your Wrongful Termination! Contact Our Pittsburgh Attorneys Now
Losing your job can be a difficult and stressful experience, but if you believe that you were wrongfully terminated, it can be even more upsetting. Wrongful termination occurs when an employer terminates an employee for an illegal reason, such as discrimination, retaliation, or whistleblowing.
If you think you may have been wrongfully terminated, it’s important to contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. Our Pittsburgh wrongful termination lawyers have years of experience representing employees in wrongful termination cases. We can help you understand your legal rights and options, and work with you to develop a strategy to get the justice you deserve.
Don’t wait to get started contact J.P. Ward and Associates today at (412) 426-4878 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you get justice for your wrongful termination.