Losing your job by getting fired can be an overwhelming experience. But if you believe that your boss breached good practice and employment legislation, the feeling of being treated unjustly can be really overpowering.
If you think that you were fired unlawfully and you’d like to pursue a resolution, then your best option is to contact your state labor office. You will be consulted by an experienced staff member who will be able to advise you on what your next steps should be.
Wrongful termination is hard to prove and deal with, but this shouldn’t deter you from taking action.
To file a legal claim against your employer, you’ll need the help of an attorney to advise you on your options with regard to collecting any relevant evidence of your unfair dismissal.
Beware, however, that at-will employees in the US can be terminated at any time and without reason. In other words, the laws in most states hugely favor employers.
And note that big corporations, for instance, are better equipped to avoid paying damages (if accused of wrongful termination) by resorting to the help of their in-house lawyers.
Also, don’t mix up your subjective understanding of right and wrong with the warranted repercussions of wrongful, unfair, and illegal termination, where you can actually do something about it.
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How do you know if you were fired unfairly?
It’s tricky to know for sure if you’ve been fired wrongfully. You could be fired on the pretense of poor performance, for example, yet, the true reasons behind your dismissal could be completely different and indeed in breach of the law.
Check out some wrongful termination examples below.
Your employer cannot refuse to accommodate your disability needs while at work and fire you for that.
You’re protected by the law against being fired on the basis of your religious and political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and race.
Getting fired for reporting any type of company misconduct is illegal, be it harassment, illegal activity, and the like.
4. Breach of collective bargaining agreement
Union members are covered by specific termination clauses, and violating those is wrongful.
5. Termination in bad faith
If your boss fired you for their convenience, say, to avoid paying you agreed-on benefits, that’s an example of unfair dismissal.
6. Violation of employment contract
In some industries, employees sign contracts where termination is covered in detail. Breaking any of these clauses results in a wrongful termination.
7. Breach of state employment laws
Different states have different employment laws. Your employer’s violation of particular state legislation at the time of your job termination can be considered an unfair dismissal, too.
Can you sue an employer for wrongful termination?
You can sue an employer for wrongful termination, provided you’re eligible and can prove their wrongdoing.
Even if you’ve been employed at will, which is the common practice in most states, you’re still protected by the law against illegal job termination.
Note that the statute of limitations for wrongful termination varies by state. Also, how long you’ve got before losing the right to file an unfair dismissal lawsuit will depend on the type of illegal reason you got fired for.
In any case, your best bet is to seek legal aid and find an experienced employment lawyer to enable you to have a winning chance in court and get monetary compensation.
When fired unjustly, who should you contact?
It would be best to contact your state labor office, as they will be able to review your particular case to help you determine if you should pursue a legal resolution through a lawyer.
If you know for a fact that you were fired illegally and you have proof, then it would be best to contact a lawyer who specializes in employment matters if you are able to afford the services of such.
In some cases, you can directly file a claim with a state agency, depending on your particular situation. Your state labor office representative and your lawyer will be able to offer you guidance on this matter.
In addition, you can also file a claim with EOCC if you’ve been terminated from your job while being discriminated against on the basis of your gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc.
Some state laws require wrongfully terminated employees to file an administrative complaint first before taking the next step – filing an unfair dismissal lawsuit. So, explore the relevant legislation of your respective state!
The main point, however, is that you need to successfully collect all the evidence, which is not always easy, especially after you lose access to all company documents or records.
This is where an employment lawyer can help you, as they know how to request all relevant documentation from your former employer by resorting to various specific laws.
Whether we are talking about the testimonies of different witnesses, your work performance, particular emails or text messages, or evidence of your employer’s violation of company termination policies, your attorney will do everything in their power to prove that your boss fired you unfairly and is now liable to pay you damages, such as lost wages and other types of compensation.
How to deal with being fired unfairly
If you think that you were fired unfairly, then you might feel upset about the situation.
That is why you should give yourself some time to cool down because it is important to think about what you should do next carefully, and emotions can get in the way of rational thought.
1. Determine if you’d like to pursue a legal resolution
After your consultation with your state labor office or with a lawyer, you should know for sure if you have a case in court.
However, you need to think long and hard if you are prepared to go through something like this.
Lawsuits can take months, even years, to settle. So consider the emotional toll on you, as well as the time and financial investment.
2. Document everything
Maintain a detailed record of all interactions, meetings, and communications leading up to your termination.
This includes emails, text messages, and any verbal conversations. These documents can be invaluable if you decide to pursue legal action.
3. Gather key information from HR
It would also help to request a copy of your employment file, any performance reviews, and the official reason for your termination.
This information can provide clarity and might be crucial in a legal dispute, should you decide to proceed with one.
4. Look for support and allies
Do your best to research if previous employees have been wrongfully dismissed. Perhaps you will be able to find somebody else who has been fired unjustly by the same employer.
Simply google your company’s name with terms such as “employee lawsuit” or “employees fired illegally.” Who knows, you might be able to find one or more allies to join your cause.
If you are able to find previous employees who have been fired in a similar fashion, then you can contact them and ask them if they would like to team up with you in court against your previous employer.
5. Seek legal counsel
Consulting with an employment attorney is a crucial step to ensure you’re well informed and prepared.
An attorney can help you understand your rights as an employee, shedding light on any protections you might have against wrongful termination.
Beyond just understanding your rights, they can provide an objective assessment of the strength and viability of your case based on the evidence and circumstances.
An attorney will also guide you on the types of evidence that can bolster your case, advising on collection, storage, and presentation methods.
6. Consider letting it go
Even if you know for sure that the odds are in your favor, you might decide that you’d rather let the whole thing go and simply focus on finding another job. Which is perfectly fine.
In the end, the decision is entirely yours, and nobody would blame you for not wanting to commit to a legal resolution.
Also, here is what you need to know in case you are worried that being fired will go on your record.
7. Come to terms with the reality
Accept that you’ve parted with the company for good and try to overcome your fear, anger, and feeling of sadness.
The most important thing for you would be to move past self-doubt and focus on what comes next for you.
8. Stay positive and strong
Wrongful termination means that losing your job is not your fault, so don’t feel negative or blame yourself for what happened.
Have hopes for the future and look forward to the imminent career change in your life, as getting fired is not the end of the world.
My advice on what to do when you get fired unfairly
One of the harsh realities of employment is that countless workers get fired unfairly each year.
However, probably any employment lawyer would tell you that it is important to clarify that there is a difference between being fired unfairly and being fired unlawfully.
For example, if two workers are equally good at their job but one of them is fired because the company has to downsize, it could be said that this is an unfair situation, but the firing is in no way unlawful.
So be mindful of this distinction if you decide to approach a legal representative for a consultation.
Frequently asked questions about wrongful termination
How can I explain an unfair dismissal in future job interviews?
Be honest and brief, focusing on the lessons learned and your positive attributes. Avoid speaking negatively about your past employer.
How long does a typical wrongful termination lawsuit last?
Lawsuit durations vary, but most wrongful termination cases can last several months to a few years, depending on the complexity.
Can I claim unemployment benefits if I believe I was fired unfairly?
Yes, you can apply. Eligibility varies by state, but being fired doesn’t automatically disqualify you from benefits.