With unprecedented job loss over the past several years, it is critical for employees to know their rights. Although many companies had few other options in light of the economic downturn, not all terminations aimed at saving money were legal. Employees should recognize this and know that labor laws are there to provide workers with relief in the face of wrongful termination.
In determining whether you were unlawfully discharged, the first place to look is your employment agreement. Many employees are considered “at-will” employees and can be let go at any time without any misbehavior or other cause. However, if you had a contract with your employer that explicitly outlined the reasons you could be let go, or if your contract provided for a specific time period for your employment, you may have a claim for wrongful termination based on your employer’s breach of the employment agreement.
You should also check your employee handbook and the company’s termination policy. If there is a company policy on termination procedures and the company failed to follow that policy, you may also have a claim for wrongful termination. For example, if the company policy provides for a certain amount of notice before the termination is to take effect, the company must abide by its policy and give you the required notice.
Even if your employment was at-will and your employer followed all of its stated procedures, there are still limits on your employer’s right to terminate. Some of these important limitations appear in the federal antidiscrimination laws, which prohibit termination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.
If you have any doubt as to your employer’s true motive for your dismissal or its method of letting you go, you should assert the rights given you by state and federal labor and discrimination laws. If you think you have a claim for wrongful termination, contact your state’s labor bureau, and talk to an employment attorney about your options for a wrongful termination lawsuit.