Gone are the days of 'written' contract, where breach of contract was the major reason for the termination of an employee.
Mass layoffs and recession, among other things, haunts the workforce of the 21st century; job security is now the last thing one can expect. You can be fired even if you are performing up to the mark, or for that matter above mark, there is no foolproof guarantee that your job is secure.
In a world where 'employee at-will' doctrine rules the roost of the employment laws, suing for wrongful termination has become a lot more difficult. In a gist, the at-will doctrine states that an employer can terminate an employee at his own will without any reason. It also advocates that the employee can leave the job at any time, giving any excuse.
So, does it mean that an employer can terminate at his/her own will, without any valid reason? Obviously this is not the case, the State laws are in the favor of employees and there are many exceptions to the employee at-will law.
But you need to have a strong case and valid reason to make your case strong in the Court of law. So if you think you are a victim of wrongful termination and have a strong case, you must fight the injustice done. Let's get into the details.
Suing for Wrongful Termination
Before getting the services of a lawyer, you should yourself judge if your case is a strong one. Termination because you complained against your employer, or because you refused to do an unlawful act, or because you took leave, or took leave to participate in Military activities to serve the country etc., are obvious cases of wrongful termination.
Consultation with a lawyer will help, also the verification of the at-will employment laws of your state is necessary. This is because the federal laws governing each state are different. The various exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine are given here.
Exceptions to the Employee At-Will Doctrine
There are three major exceptions to the employee at-will doctrine, and the rules may vary from one state to other, but the basic rules are the same. The three exceptions to the 'at-will doctrine of termination' are Public policy exception, Implied contract exception and Covenant-of-good-faith exception. Let's briefly find out what these three terms suggest.
Public Policy Exception
Majority of the States recognize violation of Public policy exception to the at-will employment termination doctrine. Violation of the public interests, for example, if an employee is fired because he had filed a worker's compensation claim, is considered as an exception, and can serve the case.
These exceptions vary from state to state, and Courts look up to the Federal Government and public policies of the state to determine if the employee was terminated against the wrongful termination laws.
Implied Contract Exception
These contracts are not actual written contracts, but are verbal agreements made by the employer to the employee, such as about promotions and company working.
The handbook or documents of the company policy can serve as a proof in the Court of law for this exception. If this is the scene with you, before filing a case, make sure that your employer had not made you sign any document that states that the documents (manuals, handbooks) do not serve as a formal contract.
Not all states recognize this exception but some do. The employers are expected to treat the employees fairly, and a level of honesty and integrity should be maintained. The employer should give a good and acceptable reason to the employee for termination.
Termination on the basis of discrimination is strictly opposed under all the states. An employer cannot termination an employee on the basis of age, gender, religion, nationality, or disability. Termination for this reason is certainly a case of wrongful termination.
Last but not the least, only a lawyer can determine if you are victim of wrongful termination. Physical proof of some kind is very necessary to make your case strong. Some kind of contract in the form of papers will serve as an official contract, and also discuss every detail with your lawyer, so that he gets to think better, and plan the case.
Before filing a suit for wrongful termination make sure your case is strong. If your termination is not in the right spirit, no one can deny justice. All the Best.