What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination is an adverse employment action in which an employee is terminated from his job for an illegal reason. Most workers who are fired usually feel like their termination was unfair or unjustified.  Just because a termination is unfair, however, does not mean that it is a wrongful termination.  This is because most workers are considered at-will employees and can be fired at any time for any reason.  There are exceptions to this default rule, however, and if an employee is fired due to an illegal reason such as discrimination or retaliation, or he is discharged in violation of an employment agreement, then his termination is likely wrongful.

 

Discrimination and retaliation in the workplace are illegal acts, and using them as a basis to discharge an employee is illegal as well.  Workers are protected against discrimination based on their race, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability, medical condition, or military status.  If an employee is fired for any of these reasons, his termination is likely wrongful, and he can use the legal system to protect his rights.  Similarly, if an employee stands up against discrimination or other illegal activity in the workplace, and his employer retaliates against him by firing him, he has likely been wrongfully terminated.

 

Another situation in which wrongful termination sometimes occurs is when an employee is discharged in violation of an employment agreement or contract.  Employment contracts can be either express or implied, and they do not always have to be in writing.  Employment contracts can also be created based on company policy or an employee handbook.  Often times, employment agreements such as these enumerate the specific ways in which an employee may be terminated, or guarantee a worker employment for a specified period.  If the employee is later fired and the circumstances of his termination breach the employment agreement, then a wrongful termination has likely occurred.

 

Regardless of which type of wrongful termination has occurred, wrongful termination is almost always illegal.  An employee who has been wrongfully terminated has legal rights, which he can exercise with the help of an experienced employment attorney.  Workers must first understand, however, what their legal rights are, and whether they have a legal cause of action.  Even in situations where a legal cause of action does not exist, an employee who was unfairly terminated may be able to use the services of an employment attorney to reach a better overall outcome by negotiating the terms of his discharge.