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Employment termination is never easy to handle. For most people, it’s difficult to come to terms with the loss of an employment opportunity, especially when that loss is a result of wrongful termination–it can be an extremely frustrating situation.
In very basic terms, wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee illegally. Employment termination is considered illegal when the basis of firing an employee is either discriminatory or in violation of company or public policies.
Employees who believe that they’ve been terminated wrongfully can seek employment lawyers to file complaints in court on their behalf. Hence, it’s best to know essential things about wrongful termination. To wit, here are critical things employees should know before they take legal action. Here are the most critical ones:
1. Wrongful Termination Is About The Reason For Firing
Any employee who believes that their termination is illegal and wishes to take legal action must be able to convince the court that the reasons for their termination violate company policies, as well as state or federal laws.
For example, if the basis for your termination is due to discrimination based on gender, race, age, pregnancy, disability, nationality, or religion, then your legal action has a lot of weight in a court of law. Additionally, termination is considered wrongful if an employer fires an employee for serving on a jury, claiming compensation, or refusing to participate in an illegal act.
If you pursue legal action, your lawyer will build a case to prove that your employer terminated you for these reasons.
2. Maintaining Proper Personnel Records Is Critical
Before you take legal action against your employer for wrongful termination, you need to ensure that you have proper records to support your claim. The best way to maintain proper records is to regularly get a copy of your personnel records. Ideally, your personnel file will contain information such as yearly reviews that show your performance in the company.
Maintaining proper records of your performance and conduct at the workplace will enable your employment lawyer to counter any efforts by your employer’s advocates to prove to the court that you were fired because you failed to adhere to company policies.
3. Employment Laws May Allow ‘At Will’ Termination
Many states have provided for ‘at will’ termination in their employment laws. Under such laws, employers can hire employees and fire them at will based on their business needs or performance issues. For instance, in California, employment laws are based on the ‘at will’ legal principle. This means employers can fire workers at any time–for a reason or no reason at all.
Employees can be fired for any reason unless there exists an employment contract between the employer and the employee. If such a contract requires that the employer provides a cause for termination and they fail to provide one, the employee can proceed to file a complaint about wrongful termination.
This doesn’t mean that state and federal employment laws, like the anti-discrimination law, don’t apply in states that have ‘at-will laws. If employment is terminated for unlawful reasons, such as those provided for in the anti-discrimination law, an employee can still file a lawsuit, and the employer will be held liable.
4. Lawsuits On Wrongful Termination Are Tough
If you decide to file a lawsuit on wrongful termination, you need to know beforehand that it’ll not be smooth sailing for you. Often, these kinds of lawsuits come down to your word against that of your employer. This calls for proper preparation ahead of filing the suit.
One way that you can have as much evidence favoring you is to relate well with your co-workers. Build a good relationship with them because they’ll most likely be called upon to testify about your work ethic and character in court.
5. Employers Aren’t Always After Protecting Their Image
The general misconception that employers will want to settle matters that end up in court quickly to protect their reputation isn’t always true. If your employer feels that your wrongful termination complaint isn’t backed by strong evidence or facts, they won’t be interested in settling it. Also, understand that for lawyers that work for large companies, publicity isn’t a concern. In most instances, incidents of wrongful termination don’t attract media attention unless the people who are involved are either celebrities or public figures.
Every year, numerous employees file complaints about wrongful dismissal in courts in a bid to secure compensation. However, winning these kinds of cases isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even with a good employment lawyer, employees must ensure that the evidence they present in court meets the legal threshold for wrongful dismissal.
If you believe you’ve been fired wrongfully, consider the five issues discussed above before taking legal action.