What Exactly Is Wrongful Termination?
Workers are protected from termination—under certain circumstances—by both state and federal law. While federal laws apply to workers across the U.S., state laws—which vary—apply only to workers who reside in any particular state in question. When state law grants broader protections to a worker than federal law does, state law generally prevails. This means that, with very few exceptions, workers always benefit from the broadest protections available to them under state and federal law. The notable exception to this general rule is that broader state protections do not apply to workers employed by the federal government
Both state and federal law address the issue of wrongful termination. Certainly, there are many circumstances under which workers may be lawfully fired or laid off by their employers. However, even at-will employees cannot be dismissed in a layoff or firing context for reasons that are unlawful. It isn’t always easy to determine whether an employer’s motivation for terminating an employee is lawful or not. In fact, it is extraordinarily rare that an employer’s mistreatment of a worker is so blatantly illegal that it can be branded unlawful on-face. Therefore, it is important to speak with an attorney about your situation if you believe that you may have been terminated wrongfully. Once an attorney assesses the details of your situation, they’ll be able to provide you with objective guidance concerning your rights and options under the law, in addition to evaluating whether you have strong grounds upon which to file legal action.
As an experienced wrongful termination lawyer – including those who practice at Cohen & Cohen – can explain in greater detail, wrongful termination is essentially any firing or laying off an employee due to unlawful reasons. One of the most common wrongful termination scenarios involves discrimination. It is shocking to learn just how often American employees are fired or laid off due to their gender, race, age (at least 40 years old), national origin, religion, disability or other protected classification. Firing or laying off a worker due to their pregnancy status or medical issues related to pregnancy is also illegal.
Other common wrongful termination scenarios involve retaliation for whistleblowing, taking protected leave from work, having a specific alien status (as long as the worker is eligible for U.S. employment), or complaints about workplace safety. If you believe that you may have been terminated wrongfully, take time to connect with an experienced lawyer today to learn about your options in a risk-free consultation setting.