Many people who are fired from their jobs are curious about the legality of the circumstances of their firing. What exactly defines if a termination was legal or illegal (known as “wrongful termination”)? The majority of employment is “at will,” meaning that an employee may be fired at any time and for any reason. They also may be fired for no reason at all, as long as the reason they’re being fired is not specifically illegal. However, there are certain key exceptions to the at-will rules and corresponding legal solutions that may assist you in keeping your job or sueing your former employer for wrongful termination.
If you have a written contract or other kind of statement promising you job security, then you have a strong argument that you are not an employee classified as “at-will.” You may have an employment contract stating that you are only able to be fired with good cause or for reasons stated in the contract, for example. You may also have an offer letter or other written document that promises you continued employment. If this is the case, then you may be able to enforce those promises in a court of law. You can consult with a workers compensation attorney to figure out if this is the case.
An implied employment contract is another exception to the at-will rule. An implied employment contract is an agreement based on things that your employer said and did. This can be difficult to prove since the majority of employers are fairly careful at not making promises of continued employment. However, implied contracts can be found in situations where employers guaranteed “permanent employment” or employment for a specified period of time, or where employers laid down specific forms of progressive discipline in an employee manual. When trying to decide whether an implied employment contract is in place, courts look at an array of factors, such as:
- Duration of employment
- Regularity of job promotions
- History of positive performance reviews
- Assurances that you would have continuing employment
- Whether your employer violated a usual employment practice in firing you, such as not giving required warning
- Whether promises of long-term employment were in place when you were hired
Breaches of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
If your employer has acted in an unfair manner, you may have a claim for a breach of a duty of good faith and fair dealing. Courts have found that employers breached the duty of godo faith and fair dealing through:
- Firing or transferring employees in order to stop them from collecting sales commissions
- Misleading employees regarding their chances for promotions and wage increases
- Inventing reasons for firing an employee when the real motivation is to replace that employee with another who will work for lower pay
- Soft-pedaling the bad aspects of a specific job, such as the need to travel through dangerous neighborhoods at night, and
- Repeatedly transferringan employe to remote, dangerous, or otherwise undesirable assignments in an attempt to coerce the employee into quitting without collecting severance pay or other benefits that would be due in a normal circumstance
There are courts who don’t recognize “good faith and fair dealing” exception to at-will employment. Certain states also require that a valid employment contract be in place prior to employees are able to sue for abreach of good faith and fair dealing.
Other major reasons that an employee may be wrongfully terminated include:
- Violations of public policy
- Whistle-blowing violations
If you or somebody you love believe that they were terminated wrongfully, call Behren Law Firm in Weston, FL for a free initial consultation today.