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In the U.S., employment is “at-will,” meaning that employers and employees can terminate the employment relationship at any time. While the at-will doctrine gives the employer broad discretion over firing an employee, this discretion is not absolute. When the firing violates a written or implied employment contract or a state or federal law, it is considered wrongful termination.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an example of a federal law that limits the reasons for which an employer can terminate an employee. Under that law, employers may not terminate an employee based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. In addition, it prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about or report discriminatory practices. An employee whose employer terminated them for a reason made unlawful under Title VII may be able to file a wrongful termination suit against their employer.
Wrongful termination laws vary at the state level but fall into the three general exceptions to the at-will doctrine: good faith, implied contracts, and public policy. Each state determines which, if any, exceptions it follows.
Employment law protects employee rights by regulating the employer-employee relationship. However, because of the broad range of employment issues it addresses, it can be a confusing area of the law. Employment attorneys are well-versed in the various aspects of employment law, so hiring an experienced employment lawyer can make resolving an employment dispute easier.
This directory contains a list of trustworthy employment lawyers and law firms in your local area. Read the law firm overviews and attorney profiles in this section to learn which attorney is a good fit for your employment case.
The Lead Counsel logo next to a law office or employment attorney listing can help your search. This logo indicates that LawInfo has verified that the attorney has experience in their field of practice, is in good standing with the state entity that governs attorney licenses, and has a clean disciplinary record.
An employment attorney can help you with many employment issues, from employment discrimination to compensation and workplace health and safety. Common disputes include the following:
If you think your employer wrongfully terminated you, you should contact an experienced wrongful termination attorney as soon as possible. A wrongful termination attorney can assist you by:
Employment lawyers charge from $100/hr to $1,000/hr depending on the issue, the attorney’s skill, and location. Some attorneys will also charge a retainer for their services.
Some employment lawyers may also work on a contingency fee basis. In this arrangement, the attorney does not charge a set hourly fee and instead charges a fee based on a percentage of any damages won for the client.
Losing your job is stressful, especially if you think your employer broke the law when it fired you. The first to do is to keep calm. You will likely be bitter and resentful over what happened, but controlling your emotions will help you gather the information you need to show your employer is in the wrong.
The next step is to start gathering information. Request a copy of your personnel file, and get copies of the employee handbook, workplace policies, collective bargaining agreements, and employment contracts—also, document any discrimination, retaliation, or harassment incidents you had with your employer. Finally, get a written explanation from your employer about why it fired you and understand the circumstances that led up to your termination.
Once you have gathered the evidence, you can file a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In some cases, you may also be able to file a claim in court against your employer. A wrongful termination attorney can assist you with either of these actions.
A court can order the employer to reinstate you if you can prove that your employer illegally fired you and compensate you for lost wages. The employer could also offer to give you your job back to settle your claim before it goes to court.
Be aware that reinstatement is rare, even if you win in court. Employers may not like a court ordering them to rehire someone so they could act in bad faith. Even if you love your job, you could feel uncomfortable returning to work after a tense interaction. Instead, judges are more likely to award you back pay or some other financial award.