In a scenario where an employer fires you for no reason, wrongful termination may have taken place. Fortunately, this may be deemed illegal and can be grounds for a lawsuit due to specific federal and state laws. The downside, however, is that a wrongful termination case is complicated and can go either way.
Can an Employer Fire You for No Reason?
An employer can terminate an employee for no reason but only during specific situations. At-will employees, for example, can be fired without warning by their employers. An employer isn’t obliged to inform an employee any notice of his or her impending termination. Unless you have a contract with your employer stating that a notice period is required before termination, being an at-will employee means that your employer can freely terminate you for any reason and at any time. In the United States, most employees work on an at-will basis.
To know whether or not you are an at-will employee, a simple review of your employment contract or an analysis of the employee handbook, if available, is all you need. If those two prove to be inadequate, seeking information from the company’s human resources department may solve the dilemma.
There are still several ways to combat the at-will clause even if its regulations or terms are seemingly encompassing. According to Federal Law, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if you have been terminated on the basis of discrimination, the firing can be considered as wrongful termination. It can be regarded as wrongful if the termination of employment was based on one of the employee’s following reasons:
- National origin;
- Sex or sexual orientation;
However, proving whether or not discrimination was indeed the basis of termination is another matter. Besides the discriminatory traits mentioned above, other scenarios that render an at-will clause obsolete include the following:
Utilizing a written agreement to your advantage may be the most effective way of establishing a lawsuit claim and can also be a way to combat termination without warning. Written agreements may come in the form of a contract or any promise or terms written on paper signed by an employer stating guaranteed employment.
By using this, you can already pinpoint what your employer is doing wrong an can be also be used as evidence for your claims These written agreements may include clauses affirming that an employee may only be fired for a good cause or a section that states continued employment for a certain amount of time.
Similar to a written agreement, implied agreements state an action suggesting that an employee may only be terminated within good reason or a promise validating continued employment. However, this is harder to prove as these claims are based on perception and no physical evidence is available to support the validity of the claim. In this scenario, claims may be based on the following and can be used in court:
- Employment duration;
- Positive performance review history;
- Job promotion regularity;
- Or continued employment assurances.
When an employee has been terminated after engaging in a legally protected activity against his or her employer such as helping in an ongoing investigation or inquiry, the termination can be deemed as retaliation and is therefore unlawful.
An employee must show that he or she has been involved in a legally protected activity to prove that termination due to retaliation has taken place. Proving this includes having registered a complaint of harassment or discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with the employer. Furthermore, it must also be determined that this action has incited a response from your employer such as termination.
Violation of Public Policy
If an employee is being fired as a result of an employer requiring him or her to break the law; beg off from performing a legal obligation; refrain from exercising a right or privilege; or to forego reporting a violation of an important law, then this may be a case of violation of a public policy. Violations of public policy include preventing an employee from taking time off to serve on a jury, voting, serving in the military or National Guard, or disclosing an unlawful act either from the company or in general.
Good Faith and Fair Dealing Breach
Federal and state laws require both parties to follow the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing even if they are not written or stated in some contracts. This includes employees being terminated to prevent them from collecting sales commissions, wages, or promotions; or being terminated to be replaced by someone who will work for a lower salary.
What to Do if You’ve Been Fired Without Warning?
If you feel like you have been unlawfully fired without warning, you should not shrug it off so easily. Being fired without notice is an injustice that should best be tackled with legal action. For wronged employees, there are proper and effective avenues where you can settle your grievances. However, as previously mentioned, proving these scenarios as wrongful termination cases can prove to be difficult as you’ll need proper legal advice and extensive knowledge and vast experience in employment law. In these scenarios, hiring an employment lawyer on your side is the best course of action.
One of the top firms in the state of California, the Mesriani Law Group uses their decades of experience in employment law to take on and win claims for their clients. In their vast experience, they have won over 100 million dollars in damages for their clients and have successfully fought for their clients’ rights. Attorneys well-versed in employment law and wrongful termination cases will be on your side.