Employment laws in the United States can be confusing, especially when it comes to illegal firings, also called wrongful or unfair dismissals. While you should contact wrongful termination lawyers to discuss the details of a case before trying to argue with your boss or former boss that firing you is illegal, it’s always a good idea to inform yourself about your rights as an employee. When is a firing permitted by law? Below are five hypothetical cases you might encounter as an employee, along with some facts that might surprise you:
- Scenario: You Were Fired Because You Are Disabled and Required Extra Accommodation
Verdict: Probably Illegal. Whether or not an employer must hire or retain a disabled employee usually comes down to the essential duties of the position in question. If you cannot perform the job, then your employer can fire you. However, if “reasonable accommodation” on your employer’s part would allow you to perform the job, then he or she is required to do so by law. Such accommodation might include building a wheelchair ramp or getting you a larger computer monitor so you can read.
- Scenario: You Were Fired for Being a “Poor Fit” for the Work Environment
Verdict: Probably Legal. Most employment in this country is “at will,” which means your employer can fire you at any time for any reason that is not illegal. There does not have to be just cause for this action, nor are you entitled to warning unless company policy requires it. If your employer doesn’t like the way you interact with your colleagues, tie your tie or chew your gum, he or she can fire you.
- Scenario: You Were Fired in Breach of a Contract With Your Company
Verdict: Probably Illegal. While most employment is at will, you may be able to build a wrongful termination case if you had a long-term contract guaranteeing your employment or if your company violated internal policies in your firing. These cases can be tricky, so it’s best to talk the situation over with wrongful termination lawyers before getting too far along in your thought process.
- Scenario: You Were Fired Because Your Boss Wanted to Hire Her Brother for the Job
Verdict: Probably Legal. There’s no doubt this feels unfair, but it doesn’t constitute unfair dismissal in the legal sense. In a private business, there’s probably no law prohibiting nepotism, and you have very few protections if you’re an at-will employee.
- Scenario: You Were Fired Because You Brought to Light Workplace Violations
Verdict: Probably Illegal. Employers are prohibited from retaliatory firings. So if you make a complaint about illegal conditions, organize an employee group (such as a union), or file a workers compensation claim, your employer would probably be breaking laws by firing you. The hardest aspect of proving retaliation is showing evidence that you were fired for this specific reason, and not for a separate and legal reason.
Can you think of any common misconceptions about unfair dismissal claims or employee lawsuits? Have you ever worked with wrongful termination lawyers on such a case? Share your thoughts in the comments.