Most states in the US have adopted the at-will employment doctrine, which means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. While this may seem like a fair system, it can sometimes lead to wrongful termination, where an employee is fired for an illegal reason, such as discrimination, retaliation, or violation of public policy.
The Crone Law Firm exclusively handles employment law matters including wrongful termination. We want workers to know what wrongful termination means, the legal protections available to employees, and how to take action if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination refers to the illegal firing of an employee for reasons that violate federal or state employment laws. These reasons can include, but are not limited to:
- Discrimination: An employee cannot be fired because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
- Retaliation: An employee cannot be fired for reporting illegal or unethical behavior, filing a complaint, or participating in an investigation.
- Public policy: An employee cannot be fired for refusing to engage in illegal activities, reporting a safety violation, or exercising their legal rights.
If an employee is fired for any of these reasons, they can file a claim for wrongful termination and seek legal remedies, such as reinstatement, back pay, and compensation for emotional distress.
Legal Protections Against Wrongful Termination
While at-will employment gives employers the freedom to terminate employees without cause, there are legal protections in place to prevent wrongful termination. These include:
- Federal and state anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibit discrimination based on protected classes.
- Whistleblower protection laws, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, which protect employees who report illegal activity or fraud.
- Public policy exceptions, which vary by state, but generally protect employees who are fired for refusing to violate the law or for exercising their legal rights.
If an employee believes they have been wrongfully terminated, they can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or their state’s labor department. These agencies will investigate the claim and may file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee.
Taking Action Against Wrongful Termination
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, there are several steps you can take to protect your rights and seek justice. These include:
- Documenting the circumstances of your termination, including any discriminatory remarks or actions by your employer, as well as any evidence of retaliation or violation of public policy.
- Consulting with an employment law attorney from The Crone Law Firm who can review your case and advise you of your legal options.
- Filing a complaint with the EEOC or your state’s labor department within the specified time frame.
- Negotiating a settlement with your employer, which may include reinstatement, back pay, and compensation for emotional distress.
- Filing a lawsuit against your employer, which may result in a trial and a judgment in your favor.
It is important to note that wrongful termination claims can be complex and difficult to prove, so it is essential to seek the guidance of an experienced employment law attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.
While at-will employment gives employers the right to terminate employees without cause, it does not give them the right to violate federal or state employment laws. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you have legal protections and remedies available to you.
Contact The Crone Law Firm at our Memphis, Chicago, or St. Louis offices to schedule a FREE consultation about your wrongful termination event and the surrounding circumstances.