Illegal termination, otherwise known as wrongful termination, occurs when an employee is fired or let go for reasons that violate anti-discrimination laws or if said reasons breach an employment contract. If you’re unsure what this looks like or if you’ve been a victim of it, let’s look at five examples of illegal termination that employees should know about.
Age, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy status, disability, race, ethnicity, and religion are all protected characteristics under anti-discrimination laws. This means that an employer cannot treat you unfavorably due to a protected characteristic, including termination, as it would be considered illegal discrimination.
For example, an employer cannot fire an elderly employee simply because they have biased or discriminatory beliefs about the elderly, as it directly violates anti-discrimination laws. In fact, this particular form of discrimination occurs so often that there are age discrimination attorneys specifically for this reason.
As an employee, you have particular rights that allow you to engage in certain activities, known as protected acts, but an employer may not be so keen on your participation. Protected acts can include taking entitled sick leave or vacation time, filing a worker’s compensation claim, or asking for disability accommodations. Say an employer really needs you on a specific day, but you were approved for vacation time well beforehand and take the day off. When you come back, your employer fires you for not being there—they would be firing you for engaging in a protected act.
Whistleblowing involves reporting illicit activities that may be occurring in the workplace. While this is also technically a protected act, it is one of the most common examples of illegal termination. You have a legal right to report crimes or violations that occur in the workplace, especially if you’re asked or encouraged to participate in them. Say, for example, you file a report about your employer engaging in unsafe workspace practices—that employer cannot legally fire you for doing so to protect themselves.
If your employer fires you for doing something that is required of you in your contract or doesn’t follow the right termination procedures, this is considered illegal termination. For example, if it states in your contract that the termination policy requires a verbal and written warning beforehand, and you receive one or neither, that qualifies as a breach of contract. As a result of this breach, you have technically been terminated illegally.
Constructive dismissal, or constructive termination, occurs when an employer makes it impossible for an employee to conduct their responsibilities. Essentially, they will attempt to make the workplace intolerable, and if you can’t do your job, they believe they technically have the grounds to fire you. But this is not the case. For instance, if an employer suddenly changes the location of your employment without sufficient notice and fires you for not being able to attend, or you quit as a response, this is constructive dismissal.
Employees have rights, and even at-will states can’t illegally terminate you. If you believe that you’ve been a victim of wrongful termination, contact the Law Firm of Tamara N Holder today to get the legal representation you deserve.