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What Rights Do Employees Have In Wrongful Termination?


Being terminated from a job can come as a huge shock, and some employees may think there’s nothing they can do about it. While in most cases there’s nothing that can be done when an employee is terminated, those who were wrongfully terminated do have options available. An employee is said to be wrongfully terminated when they are fired for illegal reasons. Usually, this involves a violation of federal employment laws or a breach of contract.

Most U.S. states support at-will employment, meaning employers can fire workers without reason. However, this does not give them the right to discharge people without discretion. Here are a few examples of wrongful termination. It’s important to remember that not all unjustified dismissals qualify as wrongful termination. You can only charge your former employer with wrongful discharge if you believe their actions were against the law.

1. Termination over Sexual Harassment

Unfortunately, many employees experience sexual harassment in the workplace. When this happens, it’s important that the employee who experienced the harassment report the behavior to their employer. However, filing a report or making a complaint could cause an employer to retaliate against the employee and terminate them for doing so. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 classifies sexual harassment as an illegal act. If you were fired for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, it may count as wrongful termination.

2. Termination over Racial Discrimination

As per several state and federal laws, employees are protected against racial discrimination in the workplace. Employees have the right to work environments that are free of discrimination, although this still occurs frequently. When employees experience racial discrimination at work, they could be subjected to harassment, lower pay, denied opportunities, and may be terminated due to the discrimination. It is illegal for employers to terminate workers based on their race, and employees who experience this need an experienced discrimination lawyer.

3. Termination over Workers’ Compensation Claims

When you’re hurt on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation that can pay for your recovery. However, some employers may wrongfully terminate an employee if they file a workers’ compensation claim, rather than provide the compensation they’re required to give the employee. Again, this is illegal and provides grounds for wrongful termination. Additionally, employers are prohibited from discharging workers who testify for their colleagues during a workers’ compensation proceeding.

4. Termination over Taking an Entitled Leave

Employees who have a family or personal medical emergency may use the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to tend to these matters. An employer is required to offer FMLA time if they have more than 50 employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Employees are eligible for FMLA time when they worked for a covered employer they have been employed by for at least 12 months, provided 1,250 hours of service within that period, and have a valid reason for the time off. If you were fired after taking a valid family or medical leave, you can sue your employer for wrongful termination.

5. Termination over Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing occurs when employees report wrongdoing in their workplace. This can include illegal actions by their employer that can harm other employees or the public. Employees have the right to report wrongdoing, and if they’re terminated shortly after doing so, this may be a clear sign of retaliation. Federal and state laws provide protections for whistleblowers, and firing employees who blew the whistle on wrongdoing is illegal.

What Do You Do If You Were Wrongfully Terminated?

If you’ve been wrongfully terminated, know that a wrongful termination lawyer may be able to help you get justice. Being fired is a stressful experience. Fortunately, there are clear steps you can take to fight against wrongful termination.

Gather Information

Since your employer will not admit fault in court, you’ll need to gather evidence to prove that your termination was unlawful. You can do this by finding out the reasons behind your termination, identifying who decided to terminate you, and requesting to see your personnel file.

Consult a Lawyer

Employment laws are complex, which is why you should always seek legal advice from an employee rights attorney if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated. A wrongful termination lawyer will have the experience you need to help you during this time.

File a Lawsuit

An experienced employment lawyer will also know where you should file your wrongful termination lawsuit. For example, if you were fired due to discrimination, you’ll have to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Damages You Can Recover in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Losing a job can cause someone to experience many difficulties. Before filing a lawsuit against your employer, you may want to know what you can recover if you win. While the exact answer depends on the nature of the complaint, you’re generally entitled to:

  • Lost wages and fringe benefits
  • Attorney fees and litigation expenses
  • Interest

Consult with a New York Employee Rights Attorney Today

Being terminated is an extremely difficult position to be in. You might think you have to deal with the loss and find a new job, but in the case of wrongful terminations, you may be able to receive compensation. Employees do have protections in the workplace that prevent them from being terminated for illegal reasons. At Brown Kwon & Lam, we represent employees who have been wrongfully terminated and help them get the justice they deserve.

Contact us today to learn more about how our wrongful termination lawyers can help.