Wrongful Termination -- Employee Law

Can I Be Fired Without Being Given a Reason?

Getting fired is tough. But getting fired and not knowing why can be frustrating. After all, if you don’t know what you did wrong, how can you make sure you don’t do it again? But is it legal for your employer to fire you without giving you a reason? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. But there are some exceptions.

This article examines when your employer can fire you without a reason. Wrongful termination laws vary by state. So, consider speaking with a wrongful termination attorney in your state right away if you’ve been fired. An experienced attorney can give you the best advice about your circumstances.

At-Will Employment

Most employment in the United States is “at will.” At-will employment means that you can quit your job for any reason. It also means that your employer can fire you at any time without a reason. But there are federal and state laws that protect you from losing your job in some cases.

When Is It Illegal For Your Employer to Fire You?

Wrongful termination is when your employer fires you for an illegal reason. Not every state approaches wrongful termination in the same way. Something illegal in one state may be legal in another. It’s important to talk to a wrongful termination attorney to understand the laws in your state.

The exceptions to at-will employment fall into these three categories:

The ‘Good Faith’ Exception

The good faith exception means your employer can only fire you for “good cause.” This means that your boss has a good reason for firing you. Common good cause reasons include poor performance or violating a company policy.

Getting fired because you made a social media post violating company policy is an example of good cause.

Implied Contracts

Some employees in the U.S. have a written employment contract that lays out the terms of their employment. A union collective bargaining agreement is an example. But even if there’s no written contract, you may have an unwritten contract. This unwritten contract is called an implied contract.

Language in an employee handbook could create an implied contract. For example, if your company’s handbook says you can work four 10-hour days per week, then your employer may be unable to fire you for working that schedule.

Public Policy

In most states, your employer can’t fire you if it violates public policy. A simple way to think about this exception is that your employer can’t fire you if there’s a law against it.

For example, your employer can’t fire you if you’re a whistleblower, take time off for jury duty, or take medical leave. Your employer also can’t fire you for taking part in protected activities, such as:

  • Filing a sexual harassment complaint
  • Filing a worker’s compensation claim
  • Complaining about working conditions

Federal laws also make it illegal for your employer to fire you for a discriminatory reason. That means you can’t be fired because of your:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex, including your sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Age if you’re 40 years old or older
  • Genetic information

Are You an At-Will Employee?

Generally, all employees in the U.S. are at-will. But you’re not at-will if you have a written employment contract or collective bargaining agreement with your union.

A written agreement limits the reasons why you can get fired. But be aware that the agreement will likely limit your options in the workplace. For example, if you’re a union employee, you may have to file a grievance with your union to resolve problems with your employer.

Can You Get Unemployment Benefits if You’re Fired?

Unfortunately, whether you can get unemployment benefits depends on state laws and the reason you were fired. State laws for unemployment differ. In most states, you can’t get unemployment benefits if you lose your job due to something like misconduct. But if you were let go due to a layoff, you likely can get unemployment benefits.

Remember that your former employer can challenge your unemployment claim. So, be honest when you apply for benefits.

What Should You Do if You Are Fired?

Getting fired is an emotional experience. Whether you have a wrongful termination case depends on why your employer fired you. If you think you have a case, get a copy of your company handbook or employment policies. Also, get copies of your performance reviews.

Remember that the reason your employer gives for firing you may not be the real reason. So, collect emails, text messages, or phone messages that could show you were fired for an illegal reason.

You only have a certain amount of time to file an unlawful termination claim. So, don’t wait to gather this information and contact an employment law attorney.

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

At-will employment means that your boss can fire you whenever they want. And they don’t need a reason. But there are some cases where it’s illegal for your employer to fire you. You should speak to an employment law attorney if you’ve been fired. They can help you understand the law and give you legal advice about your case. An attorney can also help you file a wrongful termination claim.

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