In today’s world of “at-will” work, it seems like your employer can fire you for just about any reason at all, but that’s an illusion. Employers don’t exactly have to have a good reason to let you go from your job — but they cannot fire you for an illegal one. If your employer violates the law, you may have a case for a wrongful termination claim.
Since you can’t exactly rely on your employer to admit to a wrongful firing, here are some of the signs that should put you on alert:
You had an unfulfilled contract.
Contracts impose legal obligations on both parties — and your employer can’t just act as if your contract didn’t exist. A contract won’t always prevent you from being fired, but it can obligate your employer to buy you out of your position or walk through certain steps before dismissing you.
Keep in mind that a contract can also be implied. For example, the employee handbook may assure you that you’re entitled to three written warnings before you can be fired. If so, your employer is obligated to give you those warnings before letting you go.
Your firing was discriminatory.
Employers can never fire someone simply because of that person’s age, race, gender, disability, national origin, religion or pregnancy, among other things. Most employers won’t openly admit that they’re discriminating, but you may be able to tell what’s happening through observation and other clues.
For example, imagine that your boss is a devout Evangelical who pressures you to come to church — and you admit that you’re an atheist. Suddenly, although you’ve always had good performance reviews in the past, your boss seems unhappy with you. You’re quickly written up and subsequently fired for your poor performance. You’d be well within your rights to be suspicious that the real motivation behind your firing was your religious convictions, not your work.
You think your employer was retaliating.
Some employers respond to complaints (and anything else they find inconvenient, like unionizing) by firing “problem” employees. However, it is often illegal to fire someone for exercising their rights.
For example, if you were fired after you filed a workers’ compensation claim, that could be an act of retaliation — particularly if your employer tried to discourage you.
If you think you were wrongfully fired, find out more about your legal options today.