What is Considered Wrongful Termination?

Aug 18 2017

Being fired from your job is an extremely stressful experience. It is also a deeply unsettling and confusing one. Your mind is filled with questions: “What will happen to my finances?” “How will I support my family?” “How long will it take to find another job?” One of those questions may be, “Was my termination legal?”

This is a question many people ask after losing their jobs. But before filing a case, it’s important to know what wrongful termination is and how you can go about pursuing your rights.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Connecticut is an at-will employment state. This means the employer has the right to fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all, so long as it’s not an illegal reason. However, Connecticut recognizes that there are certain circumstances that can make an employment termination illegal.  Among those circumstances are:

Discrimination – You cannot be fired from your job because of discrimination. Illegal employment discrimination in Connecticut is defined as different treatment based upon one or more of the following protected classes: race, color, religion, age, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, or disability.

Retaliation – If you spoke out against or refused to participate in any form of unlawful discrimination or in a number of other unlawful actions, and you were punished as a result, you may have a claim of retaliation.  For example, if you see a colleague being sexually harassed and intervene to protect her, you cannot be fired for opposing that discrimination.

Public Policy Violations – An employer cannot fire you for a reason that violates federal or state public policy. This often occurs where an employer tries to force you to choose between breaking the law and losing your job. For instance, if your employer told you to falsify documents that were being submitted to the government, and you were fired because you refused to lie to the government, that might be a wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Breach of Contract A contract of employment, whether written or verbal, may state the reasons why an employee can be fired.  In general, under Connecticut law, a contract for a fixed period of employment can only be terminated for “cause,” whether the contract expressly says so or not.

Collective Bargaining Agreements – Many union contracts state that a union member can only be fired for “cause,” as defined by the contract. If you are a union employee and were fired without cause, you should contact your union representative to discuss challenging (or grieving) the termination.

What If My Termination Was Unlawful?

If you believe that you were fired for unlawful reasons, the most important action you can take is to seek professional counsel as soon as possible.  The Connecticut employment lawyers at Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C. stand ready to review your situation and to discuss your legal options. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you.

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