When Can Employment Termination Be Illegal?

Employment Termination
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The majority of employers can fire workers for any reason and whenever they want. Workplace termination is only lawful when it does not violate public policy when done for legal reasons, and if it does not breach an employment contract. Wrongful termination takes place when an employer fires a worker for serving in the military, based on unlawful discrimination, or in violation of an employment contract clause. If you think you have been wrongfully terminated at work, make sure to protect your rights and explore your legal options.

Workplace Termination Based on Discriminatory Reasons

Under anti-discrimination laws, employers cannot fire their workers based on protected characteristics such as age, color, sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and others. If you have been fired based on a protected characteristic, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim.

Harassment Resulting in Termination

Workplace harassment based on your protected characteristics is a form of unlawful discrimination. Although employees face workplace harassment based on protected characteristics, the most common kind of harassment is based on the race or sex of a worker.

Illegal racial or sexual harassment can be the basis of a lawsuit if the actions are serious or pervasive enough to make the work environment hostile. A hostile work environment makes it hard for employees to function and perform effectively. Wrongful termination can include firing a harassed worker or constructive discharge. A constructive discharge is when the work environment of a worker becomes unbearable due to the continuous harassment that they decide to resign.

Retaliation for Bringing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Although employers should carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect employees who sustained workplace injuries, some companies retaliate against workers to bring a claim. These companies may want to stop other employees from bringing claims and ensure their insurance premiums do not increase. However, it is not lawful for these companies to fire a worker for bringing a workers’ comp claim. Also, employers cannot threaten workers with termination if they take part in an investigation or give testimony at a workers’ compensation hearing for a worker.

Firing an Employee in Violation of Public Policy

Some workers lose their jobs in violation of public policy. This can happen if employers fire workers for reporting for military duty or serving on a jury. In this case, the fired worker can file a wrongful termination claim against their employer. Likewise, employees who were fired due to their refusal to take part in unlawful activities at work upon the request of their employer may have a strong wrongful termination case.  

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