Deserved or Discriminated? 5 Ways Your Work Termination Might Not Be Legitimate

If you were fired by your employer, you may be wondering if you have any legal recourse. In most cases, employment is “at will,” meaning the company may terminate you for any reason. However, there are laws that can make termination illegal under some conditions. Here are five conditions where your termination might not be legitimate.

1. Breach of Promise

If you signed a contract stipulating the conditions of your employment, you may be protected. For instance, some contracts may guarantee you a certain length of employment, monetary incentives, or a clause stating that you can only be terminated for unlawful activity. If you’re fired and the employer hasn’t fulfilled their terms, and you haven’t violated yours, you have grounds for wrongful termination.

2. Good Faith

Some courts consider organizations to have an obligation of good faith when they hire you. This may be violated if you were fired based on:

  • Avoiding payment of bonuses or commissions.
  • Misleading statements about benefits, wages, or promotions.
  • Altered job descriptions, such as suddenly demanding that you travel to conferences.
  • False accusations to justify firing you and giving your position to someone else.
  • Assigning degrading or difficult jobs in order to make you quit.

3. Discrimination

TerminatedYou may feel you were a victim of discrimination, but that could mean many things. The law recognizes termination due to race, religion, or politics as discrimination. However, other factors like age, gender, language, or physical handicaps may not be discriminatory if they impact your ability to perform your job duties. Familiarize yourself with types of workplace discrimination.

4. Disciplinary Policy

Most employers will supply written policies regarding disciplinary actions up to and including termination. If you’ve committed a violation of company guidelines and were fired, check those policies. If it’s a first-time offence for tardiness that the policies say should involve a written warning, but you’re terminated, you may have been fired unfairly. Most courts will not allow companies to get away with establishing a policy and then doing something altogether different.

5. Retaliation

Laws vary by state, but in some instances you can’t be fired for reporting unlawful activity on the part of your employer. If you’re fired for reporting false financial statements, for instance, your termination would be considered illegitimate. Some states only protect whistleblowers if they’re public employees. All states protect workers who are fired as retaliation for refusing to participate in criminal actions, such as dumping toxic waste or committing perjury.

If you’re fired due to circumstances where your employer is engaged in unethical practices, you might have grounds for a lawsuit. Take your case and any documentation that supports it to an attorney experienced in wrongful termination cases.

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