Finding yourself suddenly unemployed can be a frustrating endeavor, both emotionally and financially. Being wrongfully dismissed can add insult to injury. Employers who fire a member of their staff without legal reason could potentially find themselves in a wrongful termination case, even in states enforced by the Employment-at-Will doctrine.
As per this doctrine, any reason can be cited by an employer to dismiss an employee, but there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, wrongful termination can occur when the dismissal violates a public policy mandated by the state. For another example, an employee may ask a staff member to break the law for him, and the individual declines. If the staff member is subsequently fired by the employer because of his refusal to perform an illegal act, then wrongful dismissal has occurred. Exceptions to the doctrine are based on each state’s unique public policy list.
An employee can be wrongfully terminated by an employer in scenarios involving a breach of contract. For the most part, this is in reference to written agreements, but it is also applicable to ones that are implied.
When a written contract has been breached, it means an employer has failed to live up to obligations addressed in the agreement. For instance, an employer does not have the power to terminate a staff member after 90 days if there is a 12-month term of employment provision. If the staff member is fired before the 12-month term expires, a case of arbitrary discharge may have occurred.
It can be challenging to prove wrongful termination when an implied contract is involved. In this scenario, the courts will assess how the employment contract was established to figure out if an agreement existed in the first place. If it did, then a breach would have taken place.
An employee can not legally be discriminated against based on their disability, religion, age, sex, color, nationality, or race, as per state and federal law. Employers cannot legally make any job-relevant choices, terminations included, under any of these protected classes. Such regulations are enforced to provide equality for everyone. As such, each employee can perform their duties without having to worry about losing
their job due to the way they look, what they believe in, or what their values are. If there is proof that you lost your position based on any of these categories, your employer could be held accountable for wrongful dismissal.
Wrongful Termination Examples
Some instances so wrongful dismissal may involve the following:
Losing your job as per a protected category (sexual orientation, pregnancy, race, age, etc.)
Being terminated because you were unwilling to participate in (or perform) an illegal act or behavior.
Getting fired after filing a complaint about what is believed to be an illegal act or behavior.
Being suddenly let go for voicing a grievance about prejudice, revenge, or harassment.