Wrongful Termination -- Employee Law

How Do You Prove Wrongful Termination?

Losing your job can be devastating. It’s worse when your employer breaks the law when firing you. However, you can file a wrongful termination complaint with the government or file a lawsuit in court. Either way, you must prove that your former employer wrongfully discharged you. You’ll need evidence and an understanding of employment law to win.

This article discusses what you must do to prove wrongful termination. States have different employment laws. So, you should contact a wrongful termination lawyer in your area. An experienced attorney can give you legal advice and represent you in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Federal and state laws make it illegal for your employer to fire you for specific, prohibited reasons. For example, your employer can’t fire you for:

  • A discriminatory reason like your national origin, sexual orientation, or age discrimination
  • Reporting your employer’s illegal activity (being a whistleblower)
  • Reporting sexual harassment
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Taking medical leave
  • Participating in a protected activity like joining a union

You have some options to challenge wrongful discharge. You may be able to file a complaint with a government agency like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You also may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Determine if You Are an At-Will Employee

Whether your employer wrongfully terminated could depend on your employment status. You’re an at-will employee if you don’t have an employment contract. At-will employment means you or your boss can end your employment relationship at any time. At-will employees don’t have a written employment contract, so your employer can fire you for any reason that doesn’t violate a state or federal law.

An employment contract will likely further limit the reasons your boss can fire you. The agreement will also specify your employer’s process for firing you.

You won’t have a written contract if you’re an at-will employee, but your employer’s actions could create an implied contract. Sections of your employee handbook can also create an implied contract.

Your employer not following the contract’s terms could be wrongful termination. It doesn’t matter if the contract is written or implied.

Gather Evidence

Gather documents and communications that could be evidence of wrongful termination. For example, these documents could be helpful:

  • Pay stubs
  • Personnel file
  • Performance reviews
  • Company policies
  • Employment contract
  • Employee handbook
  • Text messages and emails
  • Termination notice

It may be challenging to gather evidence if a lot of time passes. This is why it’s important to contact an employment attorney as soon as possible. They can give you advice about what documents to gather.

Write Down What Happened

Write down what happened leading up to your termination. Do it soon after you find out you’ve been fired so you don’t forget what happened. Document anything relevant to your case. For example:

  • The names and job titles of the people involved in your termination: Be sure to document the roles they played.
  • What happened when you were fired: Write down what happened when your employer fired you. Include who was there, what they said, and any reasons they gave for your firing.
  • A timeline of the events: Your boss often starts treating you poorly long before they fire you. This can help show a hostile work environment.
  • Your performance review history: Document your good performance reviews and positive comments from co-workers and management. That helps keep your boss from claiming they fired you for poor performance.

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

Proving wrongful termination can be complex. You need to know what evidence to gather. And you need to know how to navigate the legal system. So, knowing your legal rights is essential. An employment lawyer can give you legal advice about your situation. They can also help you file a wrongful termination case.

There is likely a statute of limitations on filing a complaint or lawsuit. So, contact an attorney sooner rather than later.

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