Employers are within their rights to fire employees “at will.” However, there are also illegal reasons for terminating workers.
If you believe you were fired illegally, your former employer could face liability.
An employer might fire an employee for various illegal reasons:
- Retaliating for “blowing the whistle” about the company’s discriminatory practices
- Firing an employee who complains about a hostile work environment
- Firing an employee who complains about sexual harassment
- Terminating a worker in violation of an oral or written employment agreement
If you were wrongfully terminated, your former employer may have to pay damages that include emotional distress along with your lost wages. Your employer may also have to pay punitive damages.
Steps to take
You should collect as much information about your termination as possible. Ask about the reason for your termination and request to see your personnel file. Gather any documents, emails and text messages that exist between you and your employer. Obtain statements from co-workers who witnessed anything to do with your firing. In departing the company, return all company property and follow standard procedures.
Claim versus severance package
Do you have a severance agreement? If so, an attorney can review it to determine whether your firing goes against the terms. If you have no such agreement, your attorney may be able to negotiate a severance package in exchange for your promise not to file a wrongful termination claim against the company. If the employer agrees to provide you with a severance agreement, ensure it is not contingent upon your accepting new employment. For wrongful termination, you have the right to receive all the compensation you deserve.