Have You Been Wrongfully Terminated? Here’s How to Tell

After being unexpectedly terminated from your place of employment, you’re probably wondering: what did I do wrong? Sometimes, it’s challenging to discern the reason you were let go from a position. This is because you were potentially wrongfully terminated.

Now, with that in mind, you’re likely also questioning what to do next. Don’t worry; you’re not alone when faced with wrongful termination. You may be able to take action against your employer and receive compensation with an experienced employment lawyer to help assess the situation and investigate the legality of your termination.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Getting fired from your job is never a great feeling. Often, employees feel they have been wrongfully terminated, especially if they’re let go without just cause. However, to be wrongfully terminated, your discharge must be in direct violation of federal laws or a contractual agreement.

In states where at-will employment is offered, it isn’t always easy to determine whether or not your termination was wrongful. That’s why it’s vitally important to understand the definition of at-will employment.

Understanding At-Will Employment

In the United States, all fifty states are at-will employment states, with a few exceptions to the rule. What that means is non-contractual employment may be terminated at any time without due cause. However, you may not be fired for an illegal reason, even in at-will states. In addition, employees in at-will states can resign at any time without fear of legal consequences.

Alternatively, contractual employment denotes an agreement that cannot be ended until the contract terms are met. Violating a contractual employment agreement is unlawful, as several pieces of federal legislation protect American workers. 

How to Tell If You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated

Since most states offer at-will employment, workers need to remain aware of their rights if their termination was illegal. Below, you will discover a few of the primary ways to determine whether or not your termination was wrongful:

Your Contract Was Violated

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’ve experienced a wrongful termination is to look at your original employment contract. In at-will states, you can be dismissed legally without cause unless the reasoning itself is unlawful (i.e., discrimination, retaliation, etc.). However, if your contract stipulates otherwise, your employer likely violated the agreement. Thus, they had no right to terminate your position.

Contracts typically state the duration of your employment, expected wages, and other essential information, and they are usually legally binding. Additionally, if your work contract outlines a discipline policy to be set forth before termination that wasn’t followed, your firing might be unlawful.

You Experienced Discrimination

Unfortunately, employment discrimination is a significant issue in the United States. Sometimes, business owners hold biases against specific groups of people, making you a potential target of wrongful termination due to discrimination. 

Luckily, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provides legal protections for existing employees and job applicants. In the United States, employees, both potential and existing, cannot be discriminated against based on personal beliefs, socioeconomic status, and other identifying characteristics, including:

  • Age
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Place of origin
  • Gender or gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Family status
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability
  • Public assistance status
  • Creed or religion

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws prohibiting discrimination, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Suppose your employer terminates you due to age, gender, familial status, or any other protected characteristics in the list above. In that case, you’re likely to have a good chance to overturn the decision and receive fair compensation or some kind of settlement for your suffering. So, it’s crucial to be able to spot the signs of workplace discrimination right away.

You Were Retaliated Against

Sometimes, after reporting instances of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, bad business practices, or when filing for worker’s compensation after experiencing a work-related injury, you may experience retaliation. Retaliation is punishment for participating in a legally protected activity, such as filing a complaint against a coworker, superior, or company as a whole. Examples of retaliation include:

  • Demotions or not being selected for promotions
  • Removal from teams
  • Reduced hours, wages, or salaries
  • Harassment
  • Wrongful termination
  • And more

If you feel your firing was due to retaliation after reporting unlawful business practices and have the evidence to back up your statement, there is a solid case against your employer for violating whistleblower laws. It is also illegal for employers to retaliate after seeking worker’s compensation. As a result, you could receive monetary compensation after successful litigation with an experienced attorney.

Your Employer Broke the Law

As mentioned earlier, the United States EEOC provides several pieces of legislation to protect employees from discrimination and, ultimately, wrongful termination. After your dismissal, research the following employment acts to determine if the termination was wrongful:

  • Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Rehabilitation Act

If you find that your employer breached any of the above laws, you were likely unlawfully let go and can receive damages for this undeserved situation.

Good Faith and Fair Dealing Were Breached

When good faith and fair dealing are violated, it essentially means that your employer is participating in immoral business practices. Although some at-will states don’t recognize breaches in good faith and fair dealing unless explicitly stated in an existing contract, several courts have ruled in favor of employees seeking compensation after this type of conduct.

Examples of good faith and fair dealing breaches include:

  • Firing someone to prevent them from collecting sales commission
  • Lying or misleading an employee about wage increases and promotions
  • Fabricating a reason to let someone go to replace them with someone willing to work for lower wages
  • Transferring an employee to an undesirable position to coerce them into quitting without collecting any potential severance package or pay

If any of these situations sound familiar, your employer was likely acting unfairly to save themselves money or remove you from the organization without dismissing you themselves. In this event, you have recourse to sue for wrongful termination.

You Have Been Blacklisted

One last thing you have to worry about after wrongful dismissal is the highly feared blacklist, modernly referred to as the blocklist. Sometimes, an employer simply isn’t satisfied just firing someone. Instead, they seek out ways to prevent them from finding work again after dismissal. When an employer blocklists you in an industry, it can tarnish your reputation irrevocably, making it virtually impossible to find a new job.

Although blocklisting is entirely immoral, it’s not altogether illegal. These actions are only illegal when the motivation itself is unlawful or when it violates defamation laws. That’s why it’s so crucial to collect evidence of such criminal actions to help in your case against wrongful termination.

What to Do After a Wrongful Termination

If, after reading this comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of wrongful termination, you feel that your firing was unlawful, unjustified, or you’re having difficulty finding work due to blocklisting, don’t fret. Employees in the United States like you have legal protections, giving you recourse to fight against your employer and seek compensation after a wrongful termination occurs.

Understandably, taking action against your employer can seem like a daunting task, and often, employees feel overwhelmed or even afraid of the repercussions. However, you don’t have to deal with illegal firing on your own. Instead, you can secure a skilled employment attorney to handle your wrongful termination case.
With a trusted attorney at your side, the process of disputing your termination won’t seem so daunting. Plus, a knowledgeable lawyer can typically restore your professional reputation after a wrongful termination. So, if you’ve determined that your firing was illegal, it’s time to stand up to your employer and get the compensation you deserve. Contact CJB Law today to discuss your wrongful termination case and make a plan to secure your potential settlement.