However, when an employer terminates an employee due to discrimination against the employee, because the employee has a medical condition, in retaliation for the employee’s exercise of their lawful rights, or to punish the employee for an improper purpose, the employer has likely made a wrongful termination.
If you believe you were let go from your job for an improper or illegal reason, you may have a legal claim. You should speak with an experienced Nashville employment attorney at the Employment and Consumer Law Group who can review your case to determine whether you may have a viable legal claim for compensation and other relief from your former employer.
For a 100% confidential consultation to discuss your case, reach out to us by phone or contact us online today.
Types of Wrongful Termination
Not every termination of employment that seems unfair will amount to wrongful termination. Even if you feel like you were fired for cause when other employees may not have been terminated for the same conduct, that seemingly unfair treatment may not be wrongful termination under the law.
If your employment is “at-will” as it is by default in most states, your employer is free to terminate you for any reason that is not illegal or a violation of public policy. The reason for termination must be for an improper or illegal purpose to constitute wrongful termination.
Types of wrongful termination include:
- Discrimination – An employer may not terminate an employee due to any characteristic associated with a protected class. Protected classes under federal and state law may include:
- National origin
- Citizenship status
- Religion or creed
- Sex or gender
- Pregnancy or family status
- Physical, mental, or visual disability
- Veteran status
- Retaliation – An employer may not terminate an employee in retaliation for the employee’s exercise of their rights. Examples of protected activity that can lead to a retaliatory termination are:
- Unionizing or other union activity
- Complaining of workplace discrimination or harassment
- Use of vacation time, sick time, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, or other protected time off
- Refusal to perform illegal or unethical acts
- Illness or disability – Employers may not terminate an employee for an illness or disability that the employee has. Instead, the employer is legally obligated to offer the employee reasonable accommodations for their illness or disability, including permitting the employee to take FMLA leave. An employer may terminate an employee if the employee is unable, with or without reasonable accommodations, to perform the essential functions of any available work the employer offers due to an illness or disability.
- Sexual harassment – An employee may not be terminated on account of their sex or gender, nor because the employee refuses to submit to romantic or sexual advances or to provide sexual favors.
What to Do If You Were Wrongfully Terminated
If you were wrongfully fired from your job, you should immediately contact an experienced wrongful termination attorney. You may have a very limited period of time to start a legal claim or to file an administrative claim before the legal claim.
Steps you should take following a suspected wrongful termination include:
- Review your employment contract, if any.
- Request to have the reasons for your termination provided to you in writing, and to have the individuals involved in the decision to terminate you listed in writing as well.
- Request a copy of your personnel file.
- Have an attorney review any severance package you are offered.
- Do not take any actions that would constitute grounds for termination on their own, such as disparaging your employer on your way out or improperly retaining any company equipment, materials, or intellectual property. Even if you were wrongfully terminated, your compensation for damages may be severely limited if your actions would provide an independent, legitimate basis for termination.
Proving Wrongful Termination
Even though you may firmly believe your firing was wrong, it can be much more difficult to prove as a matter of law that you were wrongfully discharged. Proving wrongful termination can vary depending on the specific basis for your claim:
- Do you have direct evidence that you were discharged for discriminatory reasons? This may include direct discriminatory statements from managers or supervisors during or leading up to your termination that indicates they have a bias against certain groups or that they prefer one or certain groups over others.
- Is there circumstantial evidence that your employer terminated you for a discriminatory reason, such as including only people in a certain protected class in the group of people subjected to a layoff, or being terminated immediately after your employer discovered your protected status?
- Are similarly situated (similar position, similar experience, same location, etc.) employees treated differently on the basis of a protected status? For example, female employees are punished for behavior for which male employees are not.
- Have managers, supervisors, or co-workers made repeated offensive or insulting comments about you based on a protected status or about a protected class of persons? Were these comments made in front of others?
- Has someone made an unwelcome romantic or sexual advance or requested sexual favors?
- If you were involved in a romantic or sexual relationship with another employee, were you subjected to adverse employment actions after that relationship ended?
- Did you report potential legal or regulatory violations to company managers or to a governmental agency? Were you later subjected to adverse employment actions?
- Were you subjected to adverse employment actions after exercising legal rights, such as taking protected leave or engaging in protected union activity?
- Were you subjected to adverse employment actions after refusing to undertake an activity that was unlawful or unethical?
Compensation in a Wrongful Termination Claim
If you settle a wrongful termination claim with your former employer, or you obtain a favorable verdict at trial in a wrongful termination lawsuit, you may be entitled to receive various forms of compensation and relief from your former employer. This may include:
- Lost wages – You may be entitled to recover the wages you would be have been paid, measured from the date of your termination until the present date. You do have a legal duty to mitigate your damages by taking reasonable steps to secure new employment. Back pay will be subject to a credit for any income from a new job or unemployment compensation benefits you receive. If you are still without a job at the time of your settlement or verdict in a lawsuit, you may also be entitled to front pay, or the income you would receive if you were still employed.
- Lost benefits – Similar to lost wages, you may be entitled to receive benefits from your old job, such as health insurance, pensions, and stock options. If you have to purchase insurance on the private market, you may be entitled to compensation for the costs of that insurance.
- Emotional distress damages – You may be entitled to claim compensation for the emotional distress caused by your wrongful termination, such as for anxiety, depression, or other mental distress. Such damages are typically limited to wrongful termination claims involving particularly egregious conduct by the employer, such as sexual harassment or pervasive discrimination.
- Reinstatement – In certain circumstances, you may decide to seek reinstatement to your old position, which can be accompanied by the seniority you would have accrued had you not been terminated.
- Job search expenses – If you incur expenses as part of searching for a new job, you may be entitled to compensation for those expenses from your former employer.
How Our Wrongful Termination Lawyers Can Help
If you believe you have been fired for the wrong reasons, you need a knowledgeable wrongful termination lawyer who can review your case to determine whether your discharge may have been for improper or illegal purposes and whether you may have a legal claim for compensation. The attorneys at the Employment and Consumer Law Group have the dedication and experience you need to determine whether you have a viable wrongful termination claim.
Your employer may have offered you a seemingly legitimate explanation for your termination, but the circumstances surrounding your termination make you think there is an ulterior motive.
Our legal team can review the circumstances of your case and will use our experience in wrongful termination cases to determine whether the reasons for your firing were merely a pretext.
We can also review the terms of any severance package you have been offered to determine whether you may be surrendering critical legal rights. If you have a legitimate wrongful termination claim, our attorneys can help you file an administrative claim and, if necessary, a lawsuit against your employer to recover the compensation you are entitled to.
If you believe you have been wrongfully discharged from your job, don’t wait another day to start pursuing the financial compensation you may deserve. Contact the Employment and Consumer Law Group today to schedule a consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options.