Wrongful Termination Lawyers – When Should You Hire a Wrongful Termination Attorney?
Losing your job can be an extraordinarily stressful experience. You may be upset, angry, or even concerned about your future. However, what if your termination was wrongful under the law? You may have a claim.
Please keep in mind that none of this is legal advice and is not to be acted as such. Plus, it doesn’t constitute an attorney-client relationship, nor do the examples guarantee similar results for your specific situation. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney. I strongly encourage you to give us a call at 1-800-CANT-WORK so we can figure out if you have a wrongful termination claim.
Don’t hesitate to call 1-800-CANT-WORK. Because some people may have claims and don’t even know it. Let us help you.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Many people who are fired from their job feel it was “wrongful”, especially if their termination was done without cause.
However, the legal definition of wrongful termination (also called wrongful discharge or wrongful dismissal) is specific. It’s to be fired for an illegal reason, which may involve a contractual
breach or a violation of anti-discrimination laws. For example, an employer cannot terminate employment because the employee is a certain race, sex, age, nationality, or religion. Some states also prohibit discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and other identifiers.
Also, an employer cannot fire an employee because the employee filed a discrimination claim or is participating in discrimination investigation. This is called “retaliation” and it’s forbidden under civil rights law.
Another example of wrongful termination is if an employee is terminated because he or she refuses to commit an illegal act.
One final example of wrongful dismissal is when the employer isn’t following the company’s own termination procedures. Sometimes an employee handbook or company policy gives a procedure to follow before an employee is termination. Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction in which the termination occurs, the employee may have a wrongful termination claim.
Some Famous Wrongful Discrimination Cases
One famous wrongful discrimination case involved Maria Martinez, a pharmacy technician who was wrongfully fired from Rite Aid in 2007. Even though she had been with the company for over two decades (and was named employee of the year twice), her supervisors chose to discriminate against her due to an isolated medical incident and her age. Not only is this type of behavior unethical, but it’s also illegal.
Her suit alleged that her direct supervisor called her derogatory remarks, such as “crazy,” “bipolar,” “psycho,” and “too old,” all in front of coworkers and customers. When Martinez sent a letter to Rite Aid’s CEO detailing the alleged workplace discrimination and harassment, she was placed on suspension. Later, she was fired.
A Los Angeles jury returned a verdict in the case, finding in favor of Martinez for damages for her wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She was awarded a verdict of $6,012,258.
Another famous wrongful discrimination case comes from Pennsylvania and it involves Sandra Robertson. She said she endured harassment and gender-based discrimination from her male colleagues as a shipping supervisor.
In 2015, a jury found that her company subjected her to a hostile work environment and retaliated against her by firing her. They awarded Robertson more than $13 million in damages and pay.
A final example involves Robert Braden, who won an age discrimination lawsuit against Lockheed Martin. In 2012, Braden was fired at the age of 66 and, at the time, was given no reason for his firing. However, out of the 110 employees who shared Braden’s job title, only five were fired. The strange thing? All five were over the age of 50.
Braden sued Lockheed Martin, claiming age discrimination under The New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination (NJLAD) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). After a four-day trial, a jury found in favor of Braden. He was awarded over $51 million.
Wrongful Termination Settlements
Wrongfully terminated employees may be able to recover their job, back pay, compensatory damages, and other expenses in a successful lawsuit or wrongful termination settlement.
In fact, a large percentage of wrongful termination claims don’t reach a courtroom. They’re settled beforehand because settlement is seen as the best option for both parties.
Wrongful termination settlements are based on many different components, which seek to determine how much loss was suffered. Some of the more common factors include wage loss, lost benefits, the cost of looking for a new job and emotional distress. Mental anguish may be the worst part of wrongful termination, especially in cases involving harassment or discrimination.
Whether you settle with your former employer or go to trial, any money you receive is meant to compensate you for the losses (or “damages”) you experienced as a result of the illegal firing.
How to Prove Wrongful Termination
Whether or not you believe you can prove wrongful termination, it’s important to consult an attorney first. Your attorney will know the right questions to ask to determine a course of action for you.
After all, an employer will rarely admit it acted with illegal motives. Because nearly everyone knows that employment decisions can’t be based on age, race, sex, etc., nearly everyone knows an employee cannot be fired for reporting illegal actions. Thus, wrongful termination cases turn on circumstantial evidence. Generally, the more circumstantial evidence you have, the stronger the case.
Circumstantial evidence can show an employer’s illegal motive in many forms. One quick example is where four employees, three men and one woman, frequently arrive late. The woman may be fired for excessive tardiness yet the men may not even be reprimanded.
There are many other factors that go into evaluating a wrongful termination case, and some employment cases tend be easier to win than others. The most important thing to do is to contact a wrongful termination attorney to review your options.
Just Got Fired? Here’s What You Can Do…
If you were laid off or fired recently and believe you may have lost your job for an unlawful reason, you may have the right to bring a claim for wrongful termination against your former employer.
Here are some steps which can help you if you have been fired:
First, don’t act on negative impulses against your employer. Do not give your employer any additional ammunition to justify their actions. It’s best to keep as much of your dignity as possible.
Write down and document as much detail as possible. Have a well documented and detailed account of events that led to your termination. Take your time to write down as much as you can, even things that don’t seem important. You never know what small detail could play a critical role in the outcome of your claim. Put together any items that could help your case, such as emails, memos, text messages, and voicemails.
Document everything. When you have all the facts and know that your employer’s actions were illegal, don’t give up. You have to stand up and let employers know what they’re doing is illegal.
Began searching for another job. When litigating a Title VII claim, one of the defenses raised by employers is that the plaintiff/former employee failed to mitigate his or her damages. This does not mean that you have to take any job that comes along but you can’t hold out for the perfect job to come along.
Contact an employee rights lawyer for advice and representation. Contacting a wrongful termination lawyer is important because a lawyer can review the facts and assess whether you have any potential legal claims. If so, a lawyer can help you think through what you want to do to assert your rights.
Here are some more situations which should prompt you to consider getting legal help:
- Actions suggesting you were fired for discriminatory reasons. For example, you were fired because of your age, sex, race, ethnicity, disability, etc.
- Your employer made regular rude or negative comments to you.
- You recently revealed a disability – including pregnancy – to your employer.
- You recently requested a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation means an employer must accommodate an employee by providing assistance to allow the employee to do his or her job despite the disability.
- You recently took time off for your disability.
- You recently filed a complaint of discrimination or harassment.
- You recently complained of other workplace wrongdoing, such as workplace hazards, or were named as a witness by a co-worker.
- You recently exercised one of your legal rights, such as voting or taking Family and Medical Leave.
- You refused to engage in an illegal act. One example would be refusing to assist your employer commit fraud.
- Your boss has gone out of his or her way to make your working environment intolerable.
- You have an employment contract limiting the employer’s right to fire you.
- You do not clearly understand your rights or are unsure of how to proceed after your termination.
You can give us a call at 1-800-CANT-WORK for a free case evaluation.
What If I’m An At-Will Employee?
The at-will doctrine states that an employer can terminate you from your job at any time, for any reason, and without fear of legal consequences. However, there are exceptions to at-will terminations.
Because even at-will employees may not be fired for discriminatory reasons. Because under federal law, employers may not fire employees because of reasons such as their race, color, ethnicity, sex, age, or disability.
It’s also illegal for employers to fire employees for complaining about harassment or discrimination. Because an employer may not retaliate against an employee who makes a complaint, files a charge of discrimination, or files a lawsuit against the employer.
Employees are also protected from termination for complaining about other types of illegal behavior as well. For example, you may not be fired for making a complaint about hazardous working conditions or asserting your Family and Medical Leave Act rights.
Questions to Ask Your Potential Attorneys
Hiring a wrongful termination attorney is a serious decision. To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, you should prepare some questions to ask beforehand. Good questions will help you filter out lawyers who aren’t a good fit. By asking the following questions, you can show the lawyer you’re serious and litigation and that you’ve done your homework.
- What percentage of cases are settled? This question is important because you want a lawyer with a proven track record of being able to settle cases out of court. Settling cases out of court is typically faster, cheaper, and less emotionally draining.
- How much experience do you have with my particular issue? It makes sense to partner with a wrongful termination/discrimination attorney who is well-versed in the issues you’re facing.
- What are my options? It’s always a good idea to ask the lawyer for a brief description of your options. You want someone who will help you determine what to do next.
- What are your legal fees? Many lawyers work on contingency, meaning they don’t charge unless and until you settle your case. Others charge for their time and may charge extra to file paperwork and/or represent you in court. Make sure whoever you choose is transparent about their fees.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue for Wrongful Discrimination?
Because of all the different ways an employer can wrongfully terminate an employee, the myriad of reasons an employer may give for discharging an employee, and the significant damages that may be awarded, it is a good idea for the terminated employee to hire a wrongful termination lawyer. An experience wrongful termination attorney can sort out the issues and protect the rights of the terminated employee.
Even though in many cases, the termination was lawful, you don’t want to blindly assume that your termination was. It’s better to check with an attorney to explore your options.
If you are filing a complaint, it’s usually unwise to do so without assistance from an attorney. Plus, different deadlines apply to claims in different states, so move quickly.
Give us a call at 1-800-CANT-WORK for a completely free case evaluation. Thank you for reading this, and we look forward to speaking with you.