Wrongful termination occurs when an employee unlawfully fires or discharges an employee. Wrongful termination can happen even in states that follow the employee at-will doctrine which gives an employer the right to fire an employee for any reason, at any time.
Exceptions to the Employment At-Will Doctrine
According to the employment at-will doctrine, an employee can be fired for any reason. However, the doctrine contains a number of exceptions. First, the doctrine does not apply when an employee’s termination has caused a public policy violation. This means that the termination is beyond the boundaries set by social norms for fair employment interactions. For instance, an employee cannot be fired in most states because he refused to break the law at an employer’s request or because he took time off to vote.
Each state has established majority views for which public policy exceptions can be argued by a complaining employee. These exceptions can usually be found in a state constitution, state statutes or administrative rules.
Breach of Employment Contract
Another way that a wrongful termination claim can arise is due to the breach of an employment contract. An employment contract is most often written, but it can also be implied, with a breach occurring based on the facts and circumstances surrounding an employment agreement.
When a written contract is used to establish employment, a breach leading to wrongful termination can occur if the contract contained provisions detailing the length of employment or setting a specific term for employment. If an employee is fired in violation of these terms, it may result in a successful wrongful termination claim.
When a contract is implied, courts will analyze the behavior, conduct and circumstances surrounding the agreement to determine whether 1) a legal contract existed and 2) the contract was breached resulting in wrongful termination.
Job Discrimination Required in Wrongful Termination Claims
Beyond public policy violations of the employment at-will doctrine and breach of contract claims, a wrongful termination case could also arise from job discrimination. Federal and state law prohibits discrimination in employment based on certain protected categories, including race color, national origin, sex, age, religion and disability. These laws affect all areas of the employment process including termination.
When an employee can prove that his or her termination came as a result of unlawful job discrimination, an employer could be held liable for violation of civil rights laws designed to protect workers by ensuring they are treated equally on the job.
When Wrongful Termination Affects You…
When wrongful termination becomes an issue, you’ll need a qualified attorney experienced and well-versed in employment law to successfully bring a claim. To get the justice you deserve, contact Shegerian & Associates today. Our attorneys have a wide variety of expertise in wrongful termination cases and are here to help.