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What qualifies as wrongful termination?

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Most employment in the United States is considered “at will,” which means that any employee can be dismissed (or “fired”) at any time and for any reason, for no reason at all, or even for a factually-wrong reason (they say you were late one day, but you actually weren’t). However, if an employer violates an employee’s rights in ending the employment relationship, this is considered wrongful termination, and you may be entitled to compensation.

Often, employees are at a disadvantage when trying to prove that a former employer violated their rights when dismissing them. They have fewer resources to mount legal challenges, less time to research their claim and face the burden of proving the motivations of their former supervisors. Many times, employees do not even realize they’ve been terminated wrongfully.

Conexion Legal understands these challenges, and the sense of powerlessness that comes with sudden unemployment. By calling Conexion Legal at 1-800-201-1220 or writing to us through WhatsApp, you can receive free legal advice that can help you regain some sense of control. If you need legal representation, we can connect you to expert wrongful termination lawyers in our network.

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Four reasons why you can’t get fired

In legal terms, wrongful termination does not simply mean “unfair,” “unjustified” or “unreasonable.” In at-will states like California, you can be fired for offenses as mild as chewing gum or using your personal phone during work hours, or because you and your employer have differing opinions on your job performance. Just because you work in an at-will state, though, does not mean that your employers can terminate you for the color of your skin, your biological sex or for filing a complaint.

The difficulty with proving any wrongful termination case is determining intent and motivation. That is why, in the event you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated, you should gather all of your employment documents, write down the details of your termination, determine if you are or were an at-will employee and speak with a wrongful termination attorney.

Though your case may be more complex, the following are four broad categories of reasons that employers cannot use to fire you.

Unlawful discrimination

An employee can file a wrongful termination claim in court if they believe they have been fired due to an alleged violation of federal or state anti-discrimination laws. Workplace discrimination is classified as an employer treating employees differently at work due to involuntary or inherent attributes over which they have no control, such as age, nationality, disability, gender, health status or sexual orientation. 

If an employer, for instance, finds out that one of his employees is homosexual and proceeds to fire that individual, that is considered wrongful termination, since the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that the1964 Civil Rights Act applies to sexual orientation or gender identity. 

While age discrimination is illegal, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is not all-encompassing. The act only protects job applicants and employees who are over 40, and who are working for or applying for a job with a private employer who employs 20 or more workers for a minimum of 20 weeks in a year.

Pregnant people also cannot be fired for being pregnant, though employers can fire a pregnant person if they violate the terms of their contract, falsify time records or break company policies. 

Hostile work environment

It is a common misconception that a worker cannot file a wrongful termination suit if they have quit a job, rather than being dismissed. Sometimes, a workplace can become too hostile, intolerable or even too unsafe to continue working there. In that case, the choice to leave may be the only realistic choice an employee has. That employee has the same right to file a wrongful termination suit as an employee who was dismissed on the basis of gender, race, disability or nationality.

Another example: If an employee has been coerced into submitting a resignation — again, they have no other realistic option — that employee, too, can sue for wrongful termination.

Unlawful retaliation

Employers cannot fire employees in retaliation for certain protected acts. These acts include:

  • Filing or being a witness in a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge, complaint, investigation or lawsuit 
  • Communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination 
  • Reporting harassment, sexual and otherwise
  • Answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
  • Resisting sexual advances or intervening to protect others from unwanted sexual advances
  • Requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
  • Asking managers and co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages
  • Reporting a hostile work environment

Breaching employment contract

When you sign a contract with an employer, it guarantees certain rights and protections for both parties involved.

If an employment contract has been signed between the employer and the employee, and that contract requires a cause for termination, and the employee is not given one, he or she may file a wrongful termination claim. 

Other cases of unlawful termination

There are other reasons that qualify as wrongful termination. For example, your employer cannot terminate you (or demote you, or penalize you) for joining, forming, or seeking to form a union; and your employer cannot fire you if you request reassignment due to a disability. This list is far from exhaustive. That is why calling Conexion Legal for a free legal consultation can help you decide how you want to proceed. 

Call us 1-800-201-1220 or write to us through WhatsApp, to schedule your free consultation. If you think you have a case and will need legal representation, we can connect you to expert wrongful termination lawyers in our network who specialize in employment laws in your state.

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