Jan 26 2021
Many people call us and say, “I was wrongfully terminated.” But what does that mean? And is it true? Was your termination wrongful? Think of wrongful termination like a big umbrella that covers lots of employment laws that are designed to protect employees. If your employer violated one of those laws by terminating you, your termination was, in fact, wrongful.
Let us not forget that to be actionable, a wrongful termination needs to be illegal. Unfortunately, if an employer is unfair but their action does not violate one of our state or federal laws designed to protect employees, their conduct is not illegal. Let’s dive deeper into what is illegal and, thus, constitutes wrongful termination.
Discrimination is illegal. Your employer cannot discriminate against you. You cannot be fired from your job because of discrimination. That means your employer cannot consider your race, color, religion, age, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry or disability in their decision to end your employment.
Retaliation is illegal. Your termination cannot be retaliatory. You cannot be terminated, or punished, for speaking out against or refusing to participate in unlawful discrimination, or other unlawful acts. Say for instance your boss asks you to approve vacation time for employees, except pregnant employees. You refuse and your boss terminates you. Your opposition to discrimination cannot motivate your employer’s decision to terminate you.
Public policy violations are illegal. You cannot be fired if you refuse to break the law. If your employer forces you to choose between keeping your job or breaking the law, that is illegal and a violation of federal and/or state public policy.
Breaching a contract is illegal. If your termination breaches a written or verbal contract, it is illegal. Employment contracts may list reasons why an employee can be terminated. If your employer terminates you for some other reason, that may be wrongful termination.
These cases can be tricky, and every case is different. Facts are critically important. If you think you were wrongfully terminated, give us a call to talk further and discuss your options.