As an employee, knowing that you work in an at-will employment state can make you feel very insecure. “At-will employment” allows businesses to dispense with staff more easily than they would in jurisdictions where this principle isn’t practised. Simply put, you can be fired without notice at any time. It works both ways, of course, but as an employee, you’re the one who is most vulnerable in the event of a sudden termination of employment.
However, there are still reasons why terminating your employment would be considered illegal or unfair. So, if you were suddenly told to pack up your things and go, how would you know if you have been fired illegally? Look out for the scenarios indicating that your employer has broken the law and can be taken to court for unfair dismissal.
1. You Were Involved in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Proceedings
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently initiated proceedings involving your employer. You were either the whistle-blower or one of the people who gave evidence during the investigation. Your employer is furious and shows you the door.
There’s just one problem.It’s illegal. In order to be effective, the EEOC needs employees to feel free to give information without suffering any adverse consequences, and if you were fired because of your participation, you’re entitled to take legal action.
2. You Lost Your Job Because of Unfair Discrimination
In unfair discrimination, race and gender discrimination are the things that first spring to mind, but disadvantaging you because of your sexual orientation, religion, age, nationality or because you have a disability are just as illegal.
If you’re able to assemble evidence that shows you got fired because of any of these factors, you may have a case against your employer. After all, it’s none of your company’s business whether you’re Jewish, Islamic, or Chrisitan, for example.
3. Your Workplace Got so Unpleasant That You Were Forced to Resign
No employer should turn a blind eye to the type of harassment that results in a hostile work environment. If you reported workplace bullying or tried to resolve it, and nothing was done, or the hostility intensified, you may have felt that you had no option but to resign.
It could be a huge setback for your career. The law in your jurisdiction is likely to allow you to take legal action on the grounds that you were forced to resign because your working conditions were so unpleasant. Once again, you’ll need evidence of what happened, how you handled it, and what, if anything, the company did when you reported the issue.
4. Your Termination was Against the Rules Laid Down in the Employee Handbook
An employee handbook lays down your rights and responsibilities as an employee. Unless it specifically states that it’s not a contract, any contravention of its contents could be seen as breach of contract in a court of law. So, if the handbook says you will get a month’s notice of termination, but you’re told to pack up and go at once, you may be able to sue for wrongful termination.
Ready to Take on Your Former Employer? Get a Lawyer!
When you’re considering any form of legal action, it’s always wisest to get professional advice. If you have substantial evidence to prove that you were wrongfully dismissed, even in the context of “at-will” employment, your next port of call is an employment lawyer’s office. If all goes well, you may be able to get some form of restitution to make up for your former employer’s unprofessional and illegal behaviour.