In these times of economic difficulties there are many layoffs and circumstances of downsizing. Very often, employers are well within their rights in terminating employment. In order to be sure about moving forward with an action against a former employer, it is helpful to review the details of the termination with an attorney who is experienced and has a detailed knowledge of the laws that govern your state and local area. State and local laws often vary and can be surprising in their scope.
The act of wrongful termination is one where the rights of the employee have been violated in regards to their termination. Remember, that being treated unfairly is not necessarily against the law. A legal right has to have been violated. As a general rule, the idea of “employment at will” has been adopted by most states. This states that there is a presumption wherein both the employer and the employee may terminate the employment for any reason at any time.
The exceptions to this rule are when legal rights are violated. This can occur in a number of ways. One is to violate a public policy. A violation of a public policy is something that is a detriment to the interests of the general public. Two examples of this are when someone is fired for filing a worker’s compensation claim and when a person is fired as retribution for whistle-blowing.
A termination that is used as an act of sexual harassment is considered wrongful. Other forms of intimidation can also fall into this category and can be considered a violation of an implied contract. If there is a violation of a signed contract, the termination can be considered wrongful as well.
The penalties for wrongful termination depend on whether or not the employer committed a crime or if they simply acted in a way that was discriminatory. The former can carry statutory penalties where the later often results in the employer having to pay the damages caused by the wrongful termination. Damages include lost wages.
There are a few things to remember if a person believes they have been wrongfully terminated. It is important to gather as much information as possible such as the exact reasons for the termination, the name of the person who made the decision, the contents of your personal file, and the details of the company’s standard practices. A person can also request information regard a severance package, especially if they feel there has been wrongdoing. Perhaps most importantly, all company equipment should be returned and one should refrain from acting on any negative emotions that might be present. In order to avoid feeling intimidated, it is helpful to have a clear conscience.
Discussing the case with an attorney can help a person to decide if a severance package or a wrongful termination claim is more suited to the circumstances. Regardless of company policy, severance packages are often considered in exchange for the promise not to pursue any legal action. During these negotiations, it is possible that the employer will offer to keep the employee rather than follow through with the termination. Accepting this offer is usually the preferred course of action.