Being fired unfairly can be a huge blow. Unfortunately, employers can fire their employees for any reason, and there is not much one can do about it. Unless there is a written contract that both parties have signed, employers can terminate employees for any reason.
If you have been unfairly fired and you feel that the reasons behind your termination had nothing to do with your performance, then you should know something about your rights so that you do not leave empty-handed.
If you were subjected to a lot of stress and humiliation during the termination and want to sue your employers, you must be meticulous and thorough with your preparation. It’s always better to seek the help of an employment lawyer, as they will tell you exactly what steps you should take based on the circumstances behind your termination.
However, the battle will not be easy, especially if you want your job back and want to come back and work for the same employer. It is important to think things through and decide whether you want to stay and fight or whether you want to move on.
Examining the Reasons Behind Unfair Termination
It would help if you considered your locality when wanting to establish the reasons for your unfair termination. In “at-will” states, you have little to no job security. It means that your employer can fire you anytime and for any reason. Yet, they should have some reason for firing you, ideally related to your work.
You can’t be fired for your gender, sexual orientation, age, skin color, ethnic background, religion, physical disability, mental health issues, nationality, or military status.
You can’t be fired if you refuse to comply with rules and regulations that compromise the privacy of your coworkers or if you refuse to be complicit in any illegal activities.
If you have the right to report any corporate misconduct or of your coworkers being discriminated against, you cannot be fired because of it, either.
In addition, you cannot be fired if you took extended leave due to military service, jury duty, pregnancy, or other health issues.
Points You Should Know About Different Kinds of Discrimination
You might face discrimination in the workplace. Before you take any action, you should know about the different discrimination you might face and what you can do about it.
1. Age Discrimination
Sometimes, companies try to fire older employees because they believe they need to pay them more salary. They try to replace them with younger employees and pay them less.
They may also be forced to retire early, or things are made so difficult that they consider quitting. If you think you are being discriminated against because of your age, document all the circumstances that lead you to believe so.
2. Gender and Gender-Orientation Discrimination
Sometimes women are targeted in companies, paid less, or terminated in favor of a more “masculine” workforce. Moreover, although companies are not allowed to question anyone’s gender orientation or sexual preferences, sometimes word gets out, and they are discriminated against.
If you believe you are being forced to quit because of your gender or sexual orientation, then that is wrongful termination, and you should document what led to it.
3. Racial Discrimination
Racial discrimination is unfortunately common in many parts of the United States. Many workplaces discriminate against employees because of their country of origin and their physical appearance based on ethnicity. And these companies often wrongfully terminate these employees on the slightest pretext.
If you are regularly subjected to difficulties and are wrongfully terminated, you should ask your employers to provide you with specific and valid reasons for termination and document everything.
Know Your Rights if You are Wrongfully Terminated
If you feel you were wrongfully terminated, the best thing you can do is contact an employment lawyer. However, here are some rights you should be aware of so that you do not despair when you suddenly get your termination letter.
1. Seeking Legal Help
It would help if you immediately started looking into your state’s labor laws. While these laws are intricate and have various sub-clauses, federal and state laws can help protect some of your interests in case of wrongful termination.
For example, suppose you are an older employee who has been wrongfully fired. In that case, you may get protection under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. A lot depends on the nature of your employment and the duration, but this is something that older workers can benefit from.
2. Getting Damages
If you are suddenly terminated for no good reason, you are entitled to damages as an employee. You may also seek the help of the labor union if your employer refuses to pay. If your employer breaches any contract by not giving you adequate notice before termination, you can also seek legal help and claim compensation.
Your attorney can help you get some of the benefits promised at the beginning of your employment. Even if you cannot stop the employers from firing you, you can still claim damages with the help of a lawyer.
3. Claim Your Benefits
You should never leave the company empty-handed. Even if you do not plan to sue your employer, you should claim all your performance bonuses, outstanding salary dues, if any, unpaid commissions, and reimbursements.
It’s your hard-earned money, so do not let it slide if your employer agrees to give you one month’s salary for firing you. You can send a legal notice if they refuse to hand over your benefits.
Steps You can Take if You Feel You are Unfairly Terminated
In case of unfair termination, if you choose to stay and fight for your rights, you should take steps to ensure a good case. Here are some things you can do.
1. Document Everything
You need adequate evidence if you have been wrongfully terminated and plan to seek damages from your employer or sue them. It would help if you documented all the discriminatory comments against you or how you were treated differently from other employees. If any paperwork was involved, or you were reprimanded on the slightest pretext, you should also document that.
Keep in touch with people who might have witnessed this discriminatory behavior so they can testify when needed. Keep photos and video clips, if any, showing your employers have harassed you at some point.
2. Ask Questions
It would help if you asked pertinent questions to your employers about why they are firing. They may not answer, but that does not mean they give up. Their inability to provide adequate answers cements that they are firing you unfairly, and you can use it to your advantage later.
Most importantly, do not sign on paper without asking what the document says or going through it yourself. If you need more clarity about any clauses, refrain from commenting and ask your attorney what it means before signing.
3. Performance Review
If you have been diligent in your work, then that will reflect on your performance review. Make sure that you have a letter of recommendation, your high sales figures, memos, and copies of positive performance reviews to have the grounds to dispute your employer if they try to say you were fired because you were an unproductive employee.
Sometimes employers do this when the real reason for firing the employee is something else entirely. If you can show that your employer had nothing to complain about as far as your performance is concerned, then you can prove that you were wrongfully fired for some other discrimination.
4. Filing Complaint
You can file a written complaint at relevant agencies depending on the nature of your termination and its circumstances.
Some of the agencies where you can take your grievances to are:
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- US Department of Labor
These agencies have experts who will review your case, tell you how to fight for your rights and seek damages for unfair termination.
How to Deal with Unfair Termination?
Dealing with unfair termination can be difficult. Here is what you can do in the circumstances.
- It is important not to despair and to keep calm.
- Do not scream, shout, or send angry emails to your lawyer on hearing you were terminated.
- Refrain from making hasty decisions. Take some time to think about everything and wait for at least 24 hours before responding.
- Create a budget. Ensure you don’t find yourself stressed out financially until you find your next job.
- If you plan to sue your employer, make sure you have the financial resources to do so.
- Seek help for your mental health. Go to a therapist.
- Find productive ways to fill your time. Learn a new skill or attend a course to avoid feeling lost and disconnected.
If you feel your employer wrongfully terminated you, you can either stay and fight for your rights or let go and look for better opportunities. However, it would help if you learned from the experience and, next time, do everything you can to protect your interests from the beginning.
Ensure you review the employment documents and ask your employers about job security at their company. Document everything from the beginning; if all goes well, you will find a good company to build your career.