How to Know if You Have Been Wrongfully Terminated

What Is Wrongful Termination And How Can I Prove It?

Wrongful termination is when an employer does not follow the correct procedures for dismissing an employee. This could also be viewed as a breaching of an implied contract between the employee and employer. An implied contract is a contract in which the terms have not been agreed upon by the employee and employer, but the terms are understood due to the company’s policies and procedures. Often times, there will be termination policies within a company’s employee handbook. If the company does not follow these guidelines, then there may be ground for a wrongful termination lawsuit. To win a wrongful termination claim, you must satisfy two requirements. First, you must prove that your termination was motivated by your employer’s bad faith, retaliation, or malice. Second, you must prove that you were terminated for performing an act that public policy would encourage (i.e. breaking work procedure to save someone’s life).


What Is “At-will” Employment?

At-will employment is a term used in U.S. labor law for contractual relationships between an employee and an employer. The law generally presumes that you are employed “at-will” unless you can prove otherwise (typically through written documents that detail a working arrangement). This type of agreement allows the employer to dismiss an employee for any reason (without having to establish “just cause”), and without warning. If an employer decides to let you go from an “at-will” agreement, there is very little that you can do legally to fight this firing.


What Are My Rights As An “At-will” Employee If I Was Fired?

As an “at-will” employee you don’t have many rights, but there still can be grounds for wrongful termination. The three main reasons for this that hold up in court are if an employer is asking you to violate state public policy (i.e. you can’t be fired for refusing to do something illegal, nor can you be fired on discriminatory grounds), there is an express or an implied contract for employment which clearly defines a certain length of time for employment, or sets forth that you can only be fired for certain reasons, and finally, if it would violate an implied promise of good faith and fair dealing (i.e. an employer cannot fire you solely to avoid paying you earned commission).


Is My Employer Legally Required To Give Me A Reason For My Firing?

In some states, employers must tell you why you were fired, but you will have to give your employer a written request before they have to give you a reason for firing. In other states, employers aren’t required to give you a reason at all. If you were not given a reason for termination though, you should consider talking to an attorney.


I Think My Former Employer May Be Blacklisting Me, What Can I Do?

Though state laws prohibit “blacklisting,” it can be difficult to prove that an employer has blacklisted you. If you can prove it, you may be entitled to punitive damages, so you may want to talk to an experienced employment law attorney to discuss how to move forward.


When Must My Employer Give Me My Final Paycheck?

The time limit for when your employer must give you your final paycheck depends on the laws in your state. This may vary depending on whether you left voluntary or involuntary. Generally, you must receive your final paycheck on either your last day, or on the next regular payday. If the regular payday for the last pay period you worked has already passed without your getting paid, contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.


If you found this article helpful you may also want to consider reading Harassment In The Workplace and Workplace Discrimination FAQ

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Revised: Feb. 11, 2016, 5:55 p.m.
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