No matter the circumstances, getting fired from a job can hurt. While in many situations, “at will” employment means that you can be dismissed from a job at any time and for any reason, there are exceptions to this general rule, and if your termination was wrongful or illegal, you may have some form of legal recourse.
Now, while it’s important to note that differing localities will have different specifics regarding the issue (a Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer will likely give you different advice on the particulars than one based in Chicago or New York), there are some generalities you should look for in determining whether you may have been wrongfully terminated. Here are a few of the most important signs.
The Violation Of Written Or Implied Promises
Let’s say you have it writing, via a contract, that your employment is not “at will” and that there are certain promises of job security (you can only be fired for “good cause,” etc.). If your employer violated this agreement, then there’s a chance the termination may have been wrongful.
Similarly (but more difficult to prove) is if your employer said and did things that constituted an agreement, then violated these in terminating you. Various factors will come under scrutiny in the event a court takes a look at your case, but there have been instances where the presence and violation of an implied employment contract were deemed as wrongful termination.
Just as anti-discrimination laws protect you during the hiring process, they serve to safeguard you from being fired in a wrongful manner. If you believe you were terminated due to your race, color, nation of origin, gender, religion, age, or for being pregnant, that would qualify as a wrongful termination, and you’ll want to talk to a lawyer about how to proceed.
Breaching Good Faith And Fair Dealing
While not all states recognize this as an exception to at-will employment, and other states only recognize it when certain other factors are present (such as a valid employment contract), courts have determined that actions like candy-coating the negative aspects of a job, continuously transferring employees to undesirable locations in an effort to get them to quit, and misleading employees about their promotion and wage opportunities represent bad faith deals. In these cases, an employee might have cause to sue their employer.
Employers aren’t supposed to fire you as a form of retaliation for you engaging in legally protected activities — such as filing formal complaints about health and safety or harassment. While tricky to prove, if an employer has fired you for such a reason, it’s wrongful termination, and you may have grounds to sue.