Wrongful termination and unfair termination are terms that often get used interchangeably, but, legally speaking, they are two very different things. If the situation surrounding your dismissal is cloudy, the reasons seem vague, or something doesn’t feel right, knowing your rights is essential, even if you work in an at-will state. To help shed some light on these complex employment laws and what you’re entitled to as an employee, let’s review the differences between unfair and wrongful termination.
Dismissal and termination have the same definition and simply mean the firing or removal of an employee. Essentially, unfair dismissal is the unfair termination of an employee and typically occurs if the termination gets deemed harsh or unreasonable. For example, if someone gets fired because the employer thinks they stole from the cash register without evidence, the court would consider it an unreasonable and unfair dismissal. However, if the dismissal gets conducted in small businesses, there are different regulations regarding termination, and it must be consistent with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code.
Wrongful termination occurs when an employee gets fired for unlawful reasons that either violate their contract, discrimination laws, employment laws, violate public policy, or is done in retaliation. One example of wrongful termination could be if an employee got fired because of their race or religion, as this would violate anti-discrimination laws. Alternatively, if an employee gets fired at the end of their shift, but their contract states the employer must give them two weeks’ notice before dismissal, the law considers it wrongful termination.
The difference between unfair vs. wrongful termination lies in why an employee got terminated. Additionally, the consequences of terminating someone based on a protected characteristic, such as race or religion, differ significantly from firing someone because the employer simply doesn’t like them. Violating federal employment, labor, and anti-discrimination laws can put an employer in jail. In contrast, an employer may need to reinstate or compensate an employee if they’re found guilty of unfair dismissal.
In an at-will employment state, an employee can get fired for almost any reason unless otherwise stated in the employment contract. Due to this policy, it is essentially legal for at-will employers to unfairly dismiss an employee. For example, if an employer fires you for showing up to work wearing a T-shirt of a sports team they hate, they can fire you; it’s unfair but not considered illegal. However, at-will employers cannot fire anyone for virtually any reason. If you’re fired in a way that violates wrongful termination laws, your employer can get held accountable.
Contact The Law Firm of Tamara N Holder today if you believe you've been wrongfully terminated. We’ll put you in contact with one of our wrongful termination lawyers so you can get the legal representation and compensation you deserve.