Wrongful Termination Attorney
It’s very rare that someone is fired and thinks it was deserved. But it’s equally rare that such termination was wrongful. Employment, for most states at least, operates on an at-will basis. This means that both parties are able to terminate the contract at will, because whether or not you sign an employment contract as part of your job employment is still a contract between employer and employee to provide time and services in exchange for a wage. And because this contract does not have an expiration date, both parties are free to terminate employment at any time for almost any reason. If you decide you’re tired of your commute and don’t want to work at your job anymore, you can quit on the spot. Two weeks’ notice is a courtesy, not a legal requirement. At the same time, if your boss decides they don’t like the color of your tie, they can fire you and you would have no real recourse, because employment can be terminated at will. But if that’s the case, why does the phrase “wrongful termination” exist? Because state and federal governments have created specific exceptions to this at-will rule. There are public policy exceptions, there are implied contract exceptions, and there are statutory exceptions. For this article we will be talking about some public policy and statutory exceptions. A wrongful termination attorney can help you examine the circumstances of your termination and help you determine if it falls within any of these exceptions.
Public Policy Exceptions
In the common law, most states have established that there are exceptions to at-will employment when it helps provide for public policy. For example, let’s say you were called to serve on a jury, and your boss threatened to fire you if you took off work for your jury duty. It is necessary for the function of our justice system that people be able to serve on a jury, and so it is in the interest of public policy that employers not have to worry about being fired if they serve on a jury. So, if your employer decides to fire you because you served on a jury, you can sue for wrongful termination and potentially be reinstated with backpay (some states actually enshrine this in law). Another example of a public policy exception is refusing to break the law. The government obviously does not want individuals or businesses violating the law, and so being fired for refusing to break the law is against public policy and you can sue for reinstatement, and can potentially win backpay. If there is something your employer wants you to do, but the government would not, there is a good chance it’s the basis for a public policy exception to at-will employment, but it’s best to speak with a wrongful termination attorney to make sure.
There are some state and federal statutes that give employees some protection from being fired. One of those is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and its equivalents in state laws. Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and sex. Subsequent common law has expanded the definition of sex to include discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy. If your employer fired you once they found out you were pregnant, or that you were in a same sex relationship, or after you started transitioning your gender, your termination could be wrongful. Another statutory exception has to do with exercising your statutory rights. For instance, the National Labor Relations Act protects the right to organize by employees, and makes it illegal for employers to interfere. If you were sharing your salary with your coworkers, asking coworkers to vote for a union, or otherwise organizing, you can file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to try to become reinstated, potentially with backpay. A wrongful termination attorney can help you determine if any state or federal laws were broken with your termination.