After Termination: Can I File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
You just got fired. You’re worried about finding a new job. But you believe there’s nothing you can do about losing your old one.
Like a lot of people, you assume that “at-will” employment means your boss can fire you for any reason. But that’s only partly correct.
Under at-will employment, your boss can fire you (or you can quit) at almost any time for almost any reason in 49 of 50 states (Montana is the exception). But your boss can’t fire you if you do something like report illegal activity at work.
If your boss does fire you for reporting illegal activity, you could file a wrongful termination lawsuit. That’s not the only reason people file wrongful termination lawsuit cases either.
Keep reading for three valid reasons to file employment lawsuit cases.
Let’s say you work in a factory. One day, you find out the factory is refusing to let employees wear the required protective gear.
A coworker gets injured, and your boss refuses to report the injury. So you report your employer to the state labor department.
The week after you make the report, you get fired. Your boss even calls you a snitch. That sure sounds like wrongful termination and workplace retaliation.
Not all wrongful termination lawsuit cases go to trial, of course. Some don’t go anywhere due to a lack of evidence.
Workplace retaliation settlements are much more likely if you have something besides your own word to go on. If anyone else heard your boss say you got fired for calling the state labor department, that strengthens your case.
You can’t get fired based on your status as a member of a protected class. Federally, that means you can’t get fired for things like religion, gender, race, pregnancy, or disability.
Other states have additional protections in place. California is a good example of this. Per the law firm of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, California also protects workers from getting fired on the basis of gender identity.
That doesn’t mean a transgender person can never get fired in California. It just means they can’t get fired because, for example, they identify as female and their boss thinks they “look” male.
Discrimination settlements aren’t guaranteed. In the above case, the boss may claim they fired the employee because they were bad at their job. It’s up to the terminated employee to prove otherwise.
These violations are rarer. That’s in large part because many workplaces don’t use contracts. They want the flexibility that comes with at-will employment.
But if you do have a contract, both sides must abide by it. As an example, let’s say you move 500 miles to work at a new job. Before moving, you sign a contract that lasts a year.
After two weeks on the job, your boss fires you. He also refuses to pay you for the time worked.
That’s a possible contract violation. Besides that, you’re definitely owed wages for the two weeks you worked there.
Filing a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
You should never attempt to file a wrongful termination lawsuit on your own. You instead need help from experienced legal minds who can tell you if you’ve got a strong case.
Your boss can fire you because you prefer Marvel Comics and he’s a big DC Comics fan. That may sound ridiculous, but it’s allowed.
Got other legal questions? We’ve got answers. Check out our legal articles category to learn more.