When hold a job, you perform the duties associated with the job with the knowledge that you can be terminated from the job at any time. This is known as at-will employment and it gives your employer the right to terminate you from the position without giving you a reason for doing so. What many workers do not realize, though, is that there are limits to an employer’s rights with regard to at-will employment. Federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 make it illegal to fire an individual for certain traits, such as his or her race, disability, or sex. When an individual is fired for an illegal reason, he or she is considered to have been wrongfully terminated.
The difference between a wrongful termination and a legitimate termination is whether the termination was made illegally. If an individual is terminated because of the employer’s bias against his or her race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, sex, or disability, he or she was wrongfully terminated.
Wrongful terminations can occur for other reasons as well. For example, you have the right to speak up if you witness discrimination or other illegal or unethical practices occur in your workplace. An individual who does so is known as a whistleblower and as a whistleblower, you have the right to continue working without fear of retaliation. If you are terminated for whistleblowing, you may file a retaliation claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws.
Another illegal reason to terminate an employee is his or her involvement with a labor union. In the United States, workers have the right to form and join unions to collectively bargain for fair treatment from their employers. Any time an employee is terminated for exercising his or her rights, which include the right to take time off from work for family needs under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 or the right to serve in the military or on a jury, the termination is illegal and grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
It can be difficult to determine whether your termination was wrongful or not. If you believe you were terminated due to a discriminatory reason, take note of the circumstances surrounding your termination:
If you feel you were terminated for exercising your right to protest unfair treatment in your workplace or your right to join a union, it is important to remember how far your protection from termination in these circumstances extends. Although you have the right to discuss protest plans and picket outside the company, you cannot protest in a way that interferes with other employees’ abilities to perform their jobs.
Discuss your termination with an experienced employment lawyer to determine whether you have grounds to file a wrongful termination claim with the EEOC. You need to provide evidence to prove that your termination was due to an illegal reason. Your lawyer can help you obtain this evidence.
If you have been illegally terminated from your position, you have the right to seek compensation for the financial damages you suffered as a result. To learn more, set up your free legal consultation with an experienced employment lawyer at The Law Offices of Mitchell A. Kline today.