One of the main concerns after getting fired is always, ‘Why was I fired?’ Moreover, employees may be inclined to question the truth and validity of reasons for termination offered by an employer. Employers often do not give any reason at all for some terminations, and, in most states, are not obligated to do so. In every state, with the exception of Montana, the employment at-will doctrine allows employers to fire an employee with or without notice, for any reason, at any time.

Yet, on the occasion that an employer does give a specific reason for termination, what if he or she is not telling the truth? This is a definite possibility, especially if the employer has engaged in illegal activity during the termination process, such as discrimination or retaliation. However, finding out the exact reason for termination is important. It could affect the outcome of a wrongful termination case or help to determine whether pursuing litigation is the right choice.

Union Membership and Why It Matters

Union membership can sometimes make a huge difference in the way an employee is  terminated. Specifically, many unions require employers to give employees notice of termination.

For employees concerned about the reason they were fired and its validity, a termination notice could be one of only a few sources of information available concerning the reasons for a termination. When you are fired, be sure to inquire about union policies and procedures. Your union may be able to offer some assistance for getting to the bottom of why your were fired.

Request a Service Letter

Another way of determining whether your reason for termination is the truth is to request a service letter. A service letter is a document written by your employer outlining the major points of your employment history. These letters may contain reasons for your termination.

When requesting a service letter it is important to list the items you’d like discussed as part of the document. For instance, you may request that your employer note the date of hiring, details of employment, date of termination and reason for termination. Keep in mind that in some states there are deadlines for requesting service letters, so the sooner the request is made the better.

What if your employer refuses to provide a service letter? If you live in a state that does not require them, your employer is under no obligation to grant a service letter request. However, you may be able to gain access to your personnel records through the Human Resources department. Personnel records could contain the valuable information you need or at least provide documentation that may be useful if you decide to take legal action or to challenge the validity of of your termination with a government agency.

Illegal Reasons for Getting Fired

It may not be easy to get to the bottom of why you were fired simply by requesting a service letter or asserting your union membership. However, gathering knowledge about illegal reasons for getting fired can help ensure you’re asking the right questions to get to the bottom of why you were fired. For instance, even though almost all states allow employers to fire and hire at will, nearly every state also has exceptions to this rule in place to prevent fraud and to ensure fair dealing between employees and employers.

One of the main illegal reason for getting fired is discrimination based on legally protected characteristics. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits termination based on color, race, national origin, disability, sex or religion. If your termination is the result of any of these forms of discrimination or is the result of harassment under any of these categories, you may have a claim for discrimination against your employer.

Discrimination claims begin with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An aggrieved employee must file a charge with the EEOC before pursuing litigation in court. Once the EEOC has investigated the charge, it will determine whether it would like to pursue the case. If not, the EEOC will issue a notice granting the employee a right to sue his employer for violations of federal anti-discrimination laws.

Once in court, an employee will need to prove that his or her termination is a result of discriminatory motives on the part of the employer. If the employee is successful in doing so, the employer will then have the opportunity to show that the reason for termination was not in fact, discrimination, but some other, non-discriminatory, but legitimate, business decision. If this defense fails, the employee could be awarded compensatory and punitive damages for the termination. Payment of attorney’s fees and reinstatement is also a possibility.

There are other actionable reasons for getting fired which could result in successful litigation against an employer. For instance, if an employer violates the terms of an employment contract in terminating an employee or fires an employee in retaliation for reporting a legal, safety or compliance regulation at work, the employee may be protected by federal or state law and could receive reinstatement or compensatory damages if successful in court.

What if you were fired for no reason?

If, after investigating the reason you were fired, you find that you were fired for no reason, don’t panic. Sometimes, even though no reason is officially stated, there is enough evidence to support a claim of wrongful termination based on the facts and circumstances surrounding your termination. It could be that the best way of getting to the bottom of why you were fired is to go through the discovery process by taking legal action against your employer.

Getting to the Bottom of Why You Were fired

Getting to the bottom of why you were fired may take a bit of work and could lead to legal action. Once you find out the truth about your termination you may feel the need to challenge the termination in court. If so, you’ll need the skilled expertise of an experienced legal team to assist with the successful resolution of your case. If finding out the truth about your termination leads to litigation, make sure your choice of representation is well-researched and wise.