If you’ve been fired from a job before, you know how incredibly stressful it can be. This stress can be compounded even further if you’re shocked to learn you’re being terminated, either with or without notice. If your termination was due to circumstances that weren’t exactly fair to you, you may be angry, confused, and want to pursue legal action. However, the law may not allow you to do this because you may not have been “wrongfully” terminated.
There’s an important distinction between “unfair” termination and “wrongful termination.” Unfair termination is unfortunately a part of life that there’s not much you can do about it—there are no legal penalties for unfairly terminating you if your employer is within their rights to do so. That is, unless you can prove that your unfair termination was in fact “wrongful.” Wrongful termination is a legal principal that essentially says your employer violated your rights as an employer or breached your employment contract in some way by terminating you, thus subjecting you to reinstatement, damages, and other forms of recompense.
Here are a few ways “unfair” termination can actually be considered “wrongful.”
Your Contract Requires “Cause” for Termination
If your employment contract says you can’t be terminated by your employer without “cause” for doing so, then you may be able to sue them for damages. “Cause” usually includes a select few reasons: willful misconduct, failure to perform your duties, or harming the company in some way (such as disclosing or misappropriating company secrets).
You Were Discussing Workplace or Labor Issues with Colleagues
The National Labor Relations Act forbids employers from taking adverse action against workers who discuss workplace issues with their colleagues. For example, if employees are constantly subjected to a serious workplace hazard, they are allowed to discuss ways in which they can reduce the risk to their safety, even if it might cost their employer a significant amount of money. Employers are also forbidden from firing workers who decide to unionize.
Employer Retaliation or Discrimination
Whistleblowers are anyone who speaks up and alerts authorities or superiors as to misconduct or unethical or illegal practices in a company. These individuals are legally protected from being retaliated against by their employers or colleagues because of their willingness to come forward. Employees who can prove that they were fired or their termination was an act of discrimination due to their coming forward with a report can sue for damages.
Employers often want their workers to be healthy and in good shape so they can minimize the chances of an injury and reduce their expenses when it comes to paying for medical insurance. However, employers looking to save money might be tempted to terminate employees who are going to cost them a lot in both sick time and medical expenses due to a condition they may have. If you can show you were fired because of your medical past, you can accuse your employer of wrongful termination.