Articles Posted in Wrongful Termination

If you hate your job and decide to stop showing up for work, chances are you’ll get fired. And you aren’t likely to be surprised by that termination. But what if your termination is unjust? Sometimes a worker is terminated for the wrong reasons, and sometimes these reasons are illegal. If you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated from a job, what do you do?

An at-will employee is a worker who can be fired at any time for any reason, with few exceptions. Although most employment is at will, you may have an employment contract that states otherwise. If you have a written contract or statement promising you a certain level of job security, these promises may be legally enforceable.

Implied Promise

Sometimes these promises are made in writing, and sometimes they are verbal. A written promise is significantly easier to prove, but an experienced MA employment law attorney may be able to help you prove that an implied promise existed. In making this determination, courts will look at the following factors:

  • How long were you employed?
  • Did you receive positive reviews and job promotions, and how often?
  • Did your employer violate its usual employment practices in your termination?
  • Were you promised long-term employment when hired?

Your claim of an implied promise may be supported, for example, if you have been employed at company A for years, have received frequent promotions, and company A failed to provide its standard written warning prior to your termination.

Why Would an Employer Wrongfully Terminate Someone?

Wrongful terminations can occur for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons include

  • preventing an employee from collecting sales commissions.
  • replacing a long-term employee with an entry-level employee willing to work for less pay.
  • discrimination, such as when an employee refuses a supervisor’s sexual advances, or when a supervisor discovers that an employee is gay.

In some cases, an employer will try to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit by getting the employee to quit on his or her own. To do so, the employer might subject the employee to unpleasant or difficult tasks, such as multiple transfers, dangerous assignments, and unpopular shifts. This is also illegal.

Illegitimate Grounds for Termination

Even at-will employees are protected from termination in certain situations. The following reasons are recognized as illegal grounds for termination:

  • Missing work for jury duty
  • Missing work to vote
  • Missing work to serve in the National Guard or military
  • Whistleblowing (providing information about harmful or illegal activity)

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If you have been let go from your job recently, but don’t seem to know exactly why, or the explanation you were given doesn’t seem to match your experience at work, it is possible that you have been wrongfully terminated and can bring a claim against your former employer. The following is more information on the laws in Massachusetts regarding wrongful termination as a guide for what to look for in evaluating whether or not you may have a valid claim.

In Massachusetts, employees are considered “at-will”, meaning that both the employee and the employer can terminate employment at any time. While sometimes it is beneficial for the employee in being able to resign and seek employment elsewhere at any time, the sometime unfortunate flip-side to that is that an employee can also be fired or let go at any time as well, and for the most part the employer is not technically obligated to provide a reason for doing so.

The good news is that “for the most part” means that there are exceptions to this rule. There are some instances in which firing an at-will employee can be grounds for a wrongful termination suit. One of the most common ways this can happen is if an employee is fired based on some form of discrimination.

In Massachusetts, the law states that an employer is barred from discriminating against an employee based on “race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, religion, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, and activity military status.” If you feel like your termination was based on one of these factors, it is important to report it as quickly as possible so that an investigation can be conducted.

Sometimes, however, it is not always as clear-cut as the above list of factors. Discrimination can be a little more subtle as well, in that in may be based on believing that these factors came into play at some point during your employment at the company, even if the actions didn’t necessarily lead to termination. For example, there is often a case where one employee is not promoted for a position which they were qualified for, “promised” (in a sense), or otherwise felt was deserved. Sometimes, this can coincide with one of the above factors (for instance, maybe an employee believes that because their employer recently found out about their sexual orientation, they chose not to give the employee a promotion because of it). If the employee then goes to file a complaint asserting this belief, and the employer finds out about it, it is illegal for the employer to then use the fact that the employee complained against him as grounds for termination. If this happens, even if the employer did not initially discriminate against the employee for the promotion, the fact that the employer then terminated the employee for filing a complaint for asserting a right (not to be discriminated against for sexual orientation), could be grounds for a wrongful termination suit. Therefore, it is imperative to keep track of actions, statements, and general conduct being displayed by the employer regarding any termination. Even if the employee is at-will, this fact alone is not grounds for an employee to always be fired for no reason whatsoever if the motive behind the termination is discriminatory in nature Continue reading

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