According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), since 2005 the amount of wrongful termination lawsuits has increased significantly every year, with the most significant peak in 2008 when the economy crashed. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Typically these claims are groundless but there are many reasons that you as an employee can fall back on to put together a lawsuit. Instances under which you can sue for wrongful determination are:
Federal anti-discrimination laws protect employees from being discharged or otherwise penalized with respect to the terms and conditions of employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, pregnancy, age, disability or genetic formation. If you believe you were fired because of any of these, you should talk to a lawyer right away. However, there are strict time limits and rules that apply to discrimination claims; for example, you must file a complaint of discrimination with a state or federal agencies before you sue your employer in court.
In extreme cases, an employer’s actions when firing a worker are so devious and wrong that they rise to the level of fraud. Fraud is commonly found in the recruiting process (where promises are made and broken) or in the final stages of employment (such as when an employee is induced to resign). To prove that your termination came about through fraud, you must be able to show all the following:
- Your employer made a false representation
- Someone in charge knew of the false representation
- Your employer intended to deceive you (or tried to induce you to rely on the representation)
- You actually did rely on the representation, and
- You were harmed in some way by your reliance on the representation
However, the hardest part of proving fraud is showing that the employer acted badly on purpose, in an intentional effort to trick you. That requires good documentation of how, when, to whom, and by what means the false representation were made.
Violation of public policy
It is illegal to violate a public policy when firing a worker – that is, to fire for reasons that society recognizes as illegitimate grounds for termination. However, it is important to note that before a wrongful termination claim based on violation of public policy will be allowed, most courts require that there be some specific law setting out the policy. Many state and federal laws have specified employment-related actions that clearly violate public policy, such as firing employee for:
- Disclosing a company practice of refusing to pay employees their earned commissions and accrued vacation pay
- Taking time off work to serve on a jury
- Taking time off work to vote
- Serving in the military or National guard, or
- Notifying authorities about some wrongdoing harmful to the public
Some courts have also hold that employers cannot fire you because you took advantage of a legal remedy or exercised a legal right – such as filing a workers’ compensation claim or reporting a violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees who have engaged in certain legally protected activities. To show that you lost your job as a result of your employer’s retaliation, you must prove the following:
- You were engaged in a legally protected activity – such as filing a complaint with the EEOC or formally complaining to your employer about harassment or discrimination.
- That activity prompted your employer to act – for example, you were reprimanded just after your employer found out that you filed a charge of sexual harassment.
- Your employer’s action had adverse consequences for you – for example, you were given a negative performance review that was unwarranted.
Have you ever been terminated on your job due to any of the above reasons? Approach an attorney and sue that employer.
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