Wrongful Termination -- Employee Law

Can I Be Fired for Breaking My Contract and Sue for Wrongful Termination?

You got fired because you violated your employment contract. Can you sue your former employer for wrongful termination? The answer is probably no. In general, a breach of contract is a legal reason to fire you but it’s not always so straightforward. You could have a case if your employer acted in bad faith or violated the law when it fired you.

This article explains wrongful termination in breach of contract cases. Wrongful termination laws vary by state. Speaking with a wrongful termination lawyer in your state is essential. An experienced attorney can give you legal advice and represent you in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Most employees in the United States are at-will. At-will employment means that you can quit at any time for any reason. It also means your employer can fire you at any time. However, state and federal laws make it illegal for your boss to fire you for certain reasons.

It’s wrongful termination if you get fired for one of these unlawful reasons. For example, your employer can’t fire you for these reasons:

  • Employment discrimination
  • You’re a protected whistleblower
  • A violation of public policy
  • Violating an employment contract

You can bring a wrongful termination claim if your boss fires you for an illegal reason. Wrongful termination is also called wrongful discharge or wrongful dismissal.

What Is an Employment Contract?

An employment contract is also called an employment agreement. It’s an agreement between you and your employer. The agreement sets out the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

The contract can be written or implied. A written employment contract is when you and your boss put your employment relationship in writing. An implied contract is when there isn’t a written agreement. Instead, it’s assumed to exist based on how the parties act. Both contracts are binding agreements and have the same legal force.

You and your employer can create an implied employment contract in many ways. Your employer may create an implied contract if it makes a promise about your employment. Consistently following certain practices over time can also create an implied contract. Provisions in your employee handbook may create an implied contract.

Implied contracts are more difficult to enforce since they aren’t in writing. Consult with an employment law expert if you have questions about your situation.

What Is a Breach of Employment Contract?

A breach of an employment contract is when you or your employer don’t follow the terms of employment you agreed to. For instance, your boss breaches your contract if they don’t pay you your promised wages. You’re breaching the contract if you don’t show up for work when you’re supposed to.

What Happens if You Breach Your Employment Contract?

The party that didn’t violate the contract can file a breach of contract claim. They can win damages or force the other party to follow the terms of the agreement if they win the lawsuit. Your employer can also fire you if you breach your employment contract.

Can I Sue for Wrongful Termination if I’m Fired for Breaching My Contract?

Violating your contract is a valid reason to fire you. Winning a lawsuit for wrongful termination can be hard. But you may have a case if your employer acted in bad faith when it fired you.

An employer acts in bad faith when it doesn’t act honestly. Suppose your employer has a termination process. A step in that process says you can present your side of the story before losing your job. But your employer fires you without giving you that opportunity. In that case, you may be able to claim your employer acted in bad faith when it fired you.

You may also have a case if your employer induced you to breach the contract. That could happen if your boss makes a false promise. For example, you miss half a day on Wednesday for a doctor’s appointment. Your contract says you can’t work weekends. But your boss says you can work Saturday to make up your missed time. You work on Saturday then your company fires you for violating your contract.

In another example, your agreement says you can’t work weekends. But your boss has you work many Saturdays when your department is behind. So, you work on a Saturday to make up for the time you missed while you were at the doctor’s office. You could argue that your employer broke the contract first by making you work weekends.

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

Generally, your employer can justify firing you if you break your employment contract. But your employer’s actions could make it guilty of wrongful dismissal. This type of wrongful termination case can be complex. So, knowing your legal rights is essential. Find a wrongful termination lawyer to get legal advice about your situation. They can also help you file a wrongful termination case.

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