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.
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)