Wrongful Termination Attorneys

WHAT IS WRONGFUL TERMINATION?

Although you can be fired for no reason, your employment cannot be terminated unlawfully. From a legal perspective, wrongful termination refers to a situation in which an employer violates the terms of an employment contract, public policy, or a specific law. Numerous circumstances can form the basis for a wrongful termination suit. The best way to explore your legal rights is to talk to an experienced employment lawyer.

You may have a wrongful termination case if you believe you were fired because of:

Discrimination

It is illegal to terminate someone simply because of some protected characteristic. It violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws such as the Minnesota Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These laws prohibit employment discrimination based on:

        • Age
        • Disability
        • Gender or Sex
        • Pregnancy
        • Race or Ethnicity
        • Sexual Orientation
        • Religion

Retaliation

Employers cannot legally fire an employee for asserting their legal rights. U.S. laws prohibit retaliation, such as those focused on wage and hour, health and safety, child labor, and workers’ compensation. State and federal agencies enforce employment laws meant to protect employees from intimidation, retaliation, and termination. Some legally protected activities encompass:

        • Pursuing sick or medical leave rights (FMLA)
        • Refusing to obey a directive that is reasonably believed to be illegal (an employee must only have a “good faith” belief that something is illegal when speaking out)
        • Taking time off for serving on a jury or voting
        • Filing a workers’ compensation claim
        • Requesting reasonable accommodation for religious practice or disability
        • Military Service

Whistleblowing

A whistleblower is a person who exposes illegal or unethical wrongdoing within an organization. It may be reported internally to managers or externally to authorities or the media. Laws protect employees and provide legal recourse. Some protected whistleblowing activities include:

        • Raising concerns about wage and hour violations (i.e., child labor, minimum wage, or overtime)
        • Revealing health, environmental, or safety hazards
        • Reporting harassment or discriminations
        • Reporting illegal activity internally or to the authorities (whistleblowing)

Covid-19 Related Actions

Although employers in the United States have a right to terminate or lay off employees for any reason, they still cannot discriminate against individuals or retaliate against them in certain circumstances. For example, if you are an eligible employee and your health condition requires you to perform work from home, work less hours, or work with other restrictions, you may have a right to request a reasonable accommodation.

Check out some of our blogs related to Covide 19:

What is Constructive Discharge?

When an employee can no longer stay in their position and is forced to resign because work conditions have become so unbearable that no reasonable employee would stay, it is a constructive discharge. It differs from a routine resignation or firing as the employment ends not because a person wants it to, but due to intolerable working conditions. These conditions could include mistreatment, harassment, or a demotion or a change in pay. A long term administrative leave may be a constructive discharge in certain circumstances. A constructive discharge often occurs as retaliation against whistleblowers.

How Can I Prove Wrongful Termination?

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, the burden of proof lies on you. The first step is to pull all of your employment documents together, such as:

    • Employee handbook
    • Job reviews/evaluations
    • Pay stubs
    • Personnel files
    • Job-related memos
    • Workplace policies
    • Termination notice or memo of the conversation

Make sure you are not taking any documents you wouldn’t be entitled to, like proprietary or privileged documents. The best way to navigate what useful documents you are okay to take is to speak with an employment attorney.

Next, you’ll need to document the details of your termination. Write down the events in the order they happened. This could go back months before your release. Make sure you address performance evaluations, particularly if they were positive, as this could be a sign of wrongful termination.

Note who was involved, either directly or indirectly, with the termination process. This could include your manager and their manager, human resources, colleagues, clients, etc. Write down not only their names and positions but also their role in the process.

Document how your termination transpired, who was present, and the reasons given. Take note of every detail you can remember, as they could be important down the road. Several elements are helpful in proving unlawful termination:

    • Demonstrate that your employer knew about your protected status, either your activities or as a person protected by Title VII.
    • The timeframe between the time the employer learned of your activity and the time of your termination.
    • Any verbal harassment or criticism you experienced from your employer.
    • Establish that your employer singled you out as a result of your protected activity or class.

The amount you can recover for your wrongful termination case depends on the damages you have suffered, your case’s strength, your tolerance for risk, and the size of your employer. You may be entitled to back pay and front pay as well as receive punitive damages, compensation for emotional distress, and costs related to attorney and court fees.

What are Exceptions to “At-Will” Employment?

Not all employees are covered the same way by employment laws. These exceptions include:

Employment Contracts

Both employee and employer must follow terms of employment and termination requirements in situations where there is a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract.

Implied Contracts

Employers cannot legally fire an employee when there is an implied contract between them. The employee handbook or human resources representative should indicate which employees are at-will and which can only be fired “with cause.”

Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Not as cut and dried as employment contracts, this exception is open to judicial interpretation. Terminations motivated by malice or without just cause may leave an employer open to a lawsuit.

Public Policy

Employers are prohibited from termination that violates Minnesota’s public policy.

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Wrongful Termination Law Firm in Minneapolis

At Halunen Law we have been dealing with wrongful termination cases and other difficult employment matters for decades. During a free, confidential consultation, we can help you figure out whether you have grounds to pursue legal action against your employer. Contact us today at 612-605-4098 to learn more.