How do you know if you were fired illegally?
Most people don't have a clear idea of what protections they have against job loss, especially since most jobs are "at will." Your employer can generally fire you without any advance notice -- and without a good reason.
However, workers do enjoy some protection against indiscriminate terminations. Wrongful discharges usually fall into one of three areas:
- Contract violations
- Acts of discrimination
- Acts of retaliation
How do you know if any of these apply to your situation? Consider the following:
1. Did you have a contract or an employee handbook that detailed the disciplinary process your employer was supposed to use?
If so, your employer is expected to follow that procedure and it's illegal not to do so.
2. Do you believe you were fired because of your race, religion, gender, disability, national origin, age or any other protected category? What makes you believe that? If you repeat the story to an objective person, would he or she likely agree?
Acts of discrimination can be overt, like getting fired when a new boss comes in because he doesn't like Muslims or Hispanics. They can also be subtle, like being pushed to retire "to make room for new (younger) people."
3. Were you suddenly disciplined and then subsequently fired shortly after you refused to go along with something your employer proposed because it was illegal? Or, did your firing occur shortly after you filed a report about something like sexual harassment?
If you participated in a legal activity that you had a right to do -- even if it inconvenienced or embarrassed your employer -- that's retaliation.
Those who suspect that they were wrongfully fired should consider discussing the issue with an attorney who handles those types of cases. It's important to look at the objective reasons that someone might agree that is what happened -- and to assess each case based on the available evidence. You may have more proof available than you think, so don't give up the right to compensation you deserve without fully exploring your options.
Source: Findlaw, "Wrongful Termination Checklist," accessed April 26, 2018