Unfortunately more and more people are faced with the prospect of losing their job in the current economy. Many wonder if they have any recourse against their employer if they disagree with the decision. It is important to keep in mind that legally speaking a wrongful termination action applies in specific circumstances. Just because your employer was unfair or unreasonable in terminating you, that does not necessarily mean you have a lawsuit.
A wrongful termination claim arises basically under two broad categories:
Wrongful termination claims often occur when an employer fires an employee based on a protectected characteristic like race, religion, or gender. It is basically a discrimination claim.
Another illegal reason to terminate involves retaliation claims. Your employer cannot fire you for filing a good faith claim or report. If you think your employer is violating some regulation, for example, your employer cannot fire you for reporting the violation to the government. These kinds of claims are called “whistleblower” claims. Keep in mind that it is only certain types of retaliation claims that are actionable. Just reporting your supervisor for being a jerk is probably not something that the retaliation statute protects.
We frequently receive questions about hostile work environment claims. Those fall under the discrimination category. A hostile work environment is one in which your employer or co-workers’ behavior is egregious enough to make it difficult to perform your job. It has to be more than just being rude, obnoxious, or difficult: your employer has to engage in some sort of discriminatory conduct or retaliation before you have a legal hostile work environment claim.
The second class of wrongful termination claims arises when your employer cannot terminate you at will. Minnesota is an at-will state, meaning you or your employer can end your employment at any time for virtually any reason. If you have a contract to work for a certain length of time, however, your employer may not be able to terminate you before the contract expires. Similarly if your employer has some specific procedure in place to follow before it can terminate an employee, you may have a claim if your employer fails to follow its policy. This type of claim is not common.
While oftentimes someone who is let go feels as if they have been wrongfully terminated, usually their termination was well within the means of the employer. However, if it was based on factors such as race, age, harassment complaint, whistleblowing, or a number of other issues, you have a reasonable claim for wrongful termination. If you believe that this is the case for you, it is important you do not act out against the employer or do anything else that may harm your claim against them. In order to determine whether you have a claim and your possible courses of action, you should find an attorney immediately and begin the process.
If you think you may have a wrongful termination claim, you should consider contacting a lawyer. There are strict timelines for filing employment claims. In most cases your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. The decision does not have to be fair or well reasoned so long as it is not based on an illegal reason like discrimination. An attorney can help you evaluate whether you have a wrongful termination claim. You can hire the attorneys at JUX to review your situation and determine whether you have a claim for wrongful termination.
Each situation has its own complexities and there are many aspects to discuss to understand the details of your situation and advise you accurately. We have an experienced attorney here who would be happy to analyze your situation’s circumstances and advise you of your legal rights and options. This can generally be accomplished during a one-hour meeting (which can be by phone). Your attorney can then advise you whether you can recover legal fees from your employer. For example, if you do not receive the wages you are owed (including overtime) after you make a written demand, you are generally entitled to recover legal fees.