Unemployment rates in the United States are at the highest level they have been in many decades – some reports even claim we are experiencing the highest unemployment numbers in our country’s history.
Regardless of the news source, there is no denying that millions of Americans find themselves suddenly out of work. While the COVID-19 pandemic caused many companies to permanently shut their doors, there are other businesses that remain in operation – even if they have scaled back their workforce.
If you were recently let go, you may be thinking, “Why did they fire me and not my coworker? I have never been written up. They made a big mistake. I have been wrongfully terminated!”
Legally, What Is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination is a term widely used but it has different meanings to different people. When speaking with family and friends, you may tell them how your employer foolishly fired you but kept other people, even though you were by far the best worker they had. Or you may say that someone accused you of a wrongdoing that simply wasn’t true and that’s completely unfair. Perhaps your boss just didn’t like you and has always “had it out for you.” There are a variety of circumstances that could have occurred where you never should have been fired. There is little doubt that your termination was simply WRONG!
In the legal world, however, the term wrongful termination means something completely different from the above examples. In almost all U.S. states, jobs are governed by the “at-will employment” doctrine. That means you can quit for any reason at any time, but it also means that the employer can fire you for any reason at any time – with or without cause. There may be an exception if you have a signed employment contract or if your employer has an employee manual outlining other steps that must be taken before termination can occur.
However, most legal issues only arise if an employer demotes or terminates you based on one of the following circumstances:
- Discrimination: Workers cannot be fired due to their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability, marital status, pregnancy status, sexual orientation, gender identification, or any other protected class.
- Retaliation: An employer may not fire you because you filed a harassment or discrimination complaint, refused to take part in harassment, or for any other retaliatory reason, including filing a lawsuit against them.
- Whistleblower Claims: Firing an employee for filing a whistleblower claim is a form of retaliation and constitutes unlawful termination.
- Workers’ Compensation: It is illegal in Florida to fire an employee because he or she filed a workers’ compensation claim.
- Family and Medical Leave: An employer cannot terminate employment because a worker requests or takes a qualifying FMLA-related leave of absence, if the company is large enough to meet the criteria to be covered under the FMLA.
- Unpaid Overtime Wages: Your employer cannot fire you if you complain about unlawful wage practices such as unpaid overtime wages, disputed FLSA exemption status and wrongful classification as an independent contractor.
Contact Us For Legal Assistance!
If you believe that you may have a legal wrongful termination claim, please reach out to USA Employment Lawyers to schedule a free case evaluation. You can request one by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call at (800) 483-0998.