People get fired for legitimate reasons – unethical conduct, insubordination, poor performance – and for some strange reasons – such as voting for a certain candidate or wearing orange to work.
Almost every state has at-will employment legislation in place – meaning that unless you have a contract, your employer can terminate your employment at any time for any reason and with zero notice. While most employers will give workers fair warning about performance issues and allow you the time to enact corrective measures, the truth is, you can be let go for something as simple as a personality clash.
However, you may have a case for wrongful termination if your firing stems from discrimination, violates public policy, or goes against the company’s own guidelines for termination. In any of these cases, you may be entitled to remedies due to the fact that your termination was illegal and unsubstantiated. In fact, according to the EEOC, wrongful termination claims have increased 260 percent over the past 20 years.
Here is a more thorough look at wrongful termination laws:
- Discrimination is involved – Federal laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, prohibit termination based on one’s gender, race, nationality, religion, age, or disability. However, in 2012, almost 100,000 charges were filed with the EEOC because companies based their employment decisions on bias rather than an employee’s performance. For instance, the EEOC recently charged a company for terminating an employee’s position because she wore dreadlocks – discrimination based on an African-American’s physical and cultural characteristics.
- Termination goes against public policy statutes – While there may not be a federal law in place, many states have their own public policy protections against unlawful termination. For example, a company cannot fire an employee who is injured on the job to avoid paying workers’ compensation claims. In addition, a company can’t fire an employee for exercising his or her legal rights, such as taking time to vote or sitting on a jury, or refusing to participate in an illegal act for the organization.
- Retaliation against whistleblowers – As an employee, you have the right to inform a state or federal agency about any misconduct within your organization. Whether it is environmental, financial, or a Title VII violation, your disclosure can help protect your fellow employees and the general public against illegal conduct. Unfortunately, in order to quiet the whistleblower, many companies retaliate by eliminating his or her position. In fact, the EEOC reported that 38 percent of its cases stem from retaliation. On September 30, 2013, a record $14 million was awarded to a terminated whistleblower whose actions led the Securities and Exchange Commission to recover “substantial investor funds.”
Wrongful termination is not only unfair to the employee, it is illegal. If you feel you have been fired for a reason that violates the law or public policy, you need to talk with a wrongful termination lawyer who can take your case before the EEOC. The attorneys at the law firm of Barrett & Farahany have substantial experience with wrongful termination cases in Georgia—contact us today.