Archive for October, 2015
In the modern economic climate, losing one’s job can easily be a devastating blow, financially, emotionally and socially. It can be even worse when an employee has lost their job unfairly, whether due to discrimination, personal vendettas or any number of toxic employer relations. Wrongful dismissal, also known as wrongful termination and wrongful discharge, is a legal phrase to encapsulate a situation where an employee has be terminated from a position under circumstances where the termination breaches the terms of an employment contract or a statute in employment laws. If an employer is found to have wrongfully terminated an employee, they could potentially pay substantial liabilities.
Lacking a formal or informal employment contract, an employee can still file a wrongful termination suit if they can show an implied contract for permanent employment, combined with facts that prove or at least imply that the firing lacked proper cause. Legal precedents have established that provisions in employee handbooks can create an implied contract, such as laying out what can and can not cause an employee to lose their job, even without a formal contract.
If a fired employee is basing their claim on public law rather than violation of a contract, they must prove that their employer has taken an illegal action, such as illegal discrimination or retribution for whistle blowing or refusing to break the law for an employer. For instant, a meat packer terminated for refusing to lie to inspectors could, if they can prove they lost their job for refusing to lie to inspectors, file for wrongful dismissal claims against their employer. Precedents exist for both discrimination and retribution for whistle blowing wrongful termination lawsuits, though it can often fall more upon the employee to prove that they lost their job unfairly than for the employer to prove the actions they took were legal.
In the United States, every state except for Montana considers employment “at will.” This means that by default, an employee can lose their job at any time without being given a reason, and that an employee can leave their job at any with no reason given. The major exceptions to these laws include the aforementioned employment contracts or firing that goes against either the law or company policy. In the case of implied contracts, an employee can base their suit around statements made by their employer, though this can be particularly difficult to prove, especially since few employers make promises of continued employment.
Proving wrongful termination that was illegal is not always an easy task. Most states only consider rules and laws laid out by a state’s constitution or statutes to be important in such cases. In addition to refusing to break the law, an employee can also not be fired for reporting an employer’s violation of the law, nor can the employer fire an employee for engaging in acts considered “in the public interest” such as jury duty. Finally, refusing to perform an act that are considered against the public’s interest can also be the basis for a wrongful dismissal suit, though they are far harder to prove.