Let’s face it: Almost everyone who gets fired feels like they were wrongfully terminated. If you were doing your best every day and did quality work, you will hardly feel like your employer is justified in firing you for some arbitrary reason.
Employers do enjoy, however, a lot of autonomy when it comes to terminating an employee. That makes it hard to know whether your firing was “wrongful” or not.
What makes firing someone wrongful?
Essentially, you’ve been wrongfully terminated if you were fired for illegal reasons, like your race, religion, ethnicity, gender or pregnancy. Since federal, state and local laws can all be in play, you may have significant protections. If you have an inkling (or know) that your boss fired you because he didn’t want the hassles of dealing with your leave following your pregnancy, for example, that’s a wrongful termination.
You’re also wrongfully terminated if you’re fired in a way that isn’t allowed by your contract. For example, say that a firm contracts for your services for two years. You meet all of your obligations in the agreement, but someone comes along at the one-year mark and offers to do the job for less. You’re fired. That’s a wrongful termination.
A termination can also be wrongful when you’re fired in violation of public policy. That includes situations where someone is fired in retaliation for making a complaint about on-the-job harassment or dangerous working conditions.
Wrongful terminations can also be defined by company policy. If, for example, the company handbook says you’re entitled to a verbal warning, a written warning and a performance improvement plan before being fired for mistakes, it would be wrongful to fire you after your first error.
What do you do if you think you were wrongfully terminated?
If you believe you were fired in violation of the law, the smart thing to do is to gather up all of the evidence you have and take it to an attorney. Wrongful termination is something you can — and should — fight.