Depending on the state you live in, and the type of job you have, you’re probably an at-will employee. The short and dirty of at-will means that you can quit your job at any time, without notice, for any reason. It also means, however, that your employer can terminate your job, without notice, for any reason. Which makes the idea of “two weeks’ notice” more of an act of courtesy than anything else. Of course, some employees have different kinds of contracts that allow for severance packages and additional terms. But, for the most part, at-will employment contracts cover employees, particularly hourly employees (which is right around sixty percent).
Don’t misunderstand, being an at-will employee doesn’t mean that you’re without rights. An employer can’t fire you if your being dismissed violates state, federal laws, particularly anti-discrimination laws – that is you can’t be fired for things like being a woman, a Muslim, or a homosexual. This doesn’t mean an employer won’t try to fire you for one of those reasons, it just means that if you are fired for another reason and you can prove it was for another reason it might be worth your time to contact a wrongful termination attorney.
The above examples ae obvious, and along with anti-harassment laws, are probably the best known worker’s rights. But they’re not the only ones. Another reason you can’t be fired is for something called constructive wrongful termination. This is when a boss or owner makes working conditions so terrible that an employee quits rather than deal with the stress of having to go to work. The wording is kind of built around the language of reason . . . that is, no reasonable person would want to continue working in the environment created by the place of employment.
Along with constructive wrongful termination is the Whistle Blower Act. This is when a person is fired for reporting state or federal violations to the appropriate authorities. So, your boss can’t make you quit by making your work environment unsafe and your boss also can’t fire you for reporting the unsafe environment. The trick with all of this is that there is no one law that defines wrongful termination. Instead wrongful termination is defined when one or more of several laws already on the books are broken.
•Fair Credit and Bankruptcy – It’s not a good idea to have bad credit but it’s also not a reason for dismissal.
•Insufficient Cause – You can be fired for things like theft or acts of violence, but minor, one-times violations are not cause for dismissal.
•The First Amendment – You can’t be fired for speaking your mind or peacefully assembling.
•Voting Leave – Your job has to let you off if it means getting you to the polls on time.
•Contract Law – You’re job has to agree to fulfill the explicit or implied contract that you both agreed upon at hire. They can’t tell you what your hours are going to be then force you to work different hours by threatening to fire you.
•Good Faith – There are unspoken agreements that every employer has to stand by. They can’t hire you in at eighteen dollars and hour and then cut your wages to minimum wage in order to get you to quit.
•Breaking the Law – No employer should ever or ask you to break a law, much less fire you if you refuse to do so.
•False Statements – Your boss cannot accuse you of doing something that’s not supported by evidence and then dismiss you based on that accusation.
•Jury Duty – You have to be allowed to miss work if you’re called upon for jury duty, and your same position must be waiting for you upon return.
If you feel like any of the above has happened to you, then you may want to take legal action, but do it quick because some states have a short statute of limitations for wrongful termination suits. You may not need to contact a lawyer outright. If your termination was the result of a federal or state law being broken, the federal and state bureaus of labor relations might be the folks to get in touch with first. If your termination was the result of unsafe conditions, then OSHA is your go to agency.
As mentioned before, not all wrongful terminations are clearly defined. In those instances it may well be worth your while to contact a wrongful termination attorney. Some attorneys will work on a contingency fee in wrongful termination suits, and many more will at least provide a free consultation so you know where you stand. The best rule of thumb is: If you feel like you were fired for an unfair reason, then at least talk to an attorney. There’s no harm in trying – you’ve already lost the job and the attorney will keep all of your information and conversations confidential. Companies, regardless of what they may tell you, oftentimes don’t have your best interests at heart. The job of a company is to make money, and they will only take care of their people if those people are able to maximize profits for them. In addition, you never know who your boss is going to be and just like everyone else, bosses can be shortsighted and vengeful. Take the next step and contact a wrongful termination lawyer today. What have you got to lose?