In today’s increasingly complex global workforce, it is essential to understand your rights related to wrongful termination. Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for reasons prohibited by law, such as discrimination or breach of contract. This post will provide information about wrongful termination in order to help employers and employees take action and help manage the situation.
Most Employees are Employed “At-Will”
In Illinois (and most places) employees are typically known as “at-will” – meaning they can be let go for almost any reason. However, employers must make sure their reasons don’t break the law! On the other hand, if an agreement is in place between employer and employee that specifies a period of employment then it’s considered more secure. Common causes for terminating someone would be attendance issues, subpar work quality or failure to meet expectations set by management.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Employers are legally obligated to treat their employees fairly and respectfully but unfortunately, that does not always happen. A wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for reasons including discrimination based on a protected characteristic such as sex, race or age; whistleblowing activities; reporting illegal behavior within the company or rejecting sexual harassment. In these cases, legal action may be taken against the employer in order to protect their former employee’s rights.
What is Illegal Discrimination?
There are several laws to protect employees from illegal discrimination. These laws include:
- Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- The Illinois Human Rights Act
Here is a list of 50 (!) common types of unlawful employment discrimination.
The law also protects employees from being fired in retaliation for reporting illegal conduct. Laws that protect against discrimination often protect against retaliation.
Employees who report illegal conduct are sometimes called whistleblowers. Laws that protect whistleblowers include:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act
- The Family and Medical Leave Act
- The National Labor Relations Act
- The Illinois Whistleblower Act
What Should You Do If You Believe You Were the Victim of a Wrongful Termination?
In some cases, employees can dispute a wrongful termination and get a settlement or damages awarded by the court. However, wrongful termination cases can take years to be decided and are often difficult to prove.
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, you can start with the U.S Department of Labor. The DOL has resources on employment laws and information for filing a claim.
Also, make sure you spend time managing the emotional impact of losing a job.
When you are ready, you may want to consult an employment lawyer.
Employees who want to pursue wrongful termination claims need to act quickly. In some cases, the deadlines to file a claim are extremely short.
Do you think you were wrongfully terminated? Contact Jeff.