About 40% of Americans have been fired from their job at some point in their life. Getting dismissed from your job is upsetting and something no one wants to face. Indiana is similar to many other states because it recognizes the at-will employment doctrine. A company can fire its employees at any time for almost any reason. However, this does not mean businesses are free to treat their employees however they like. American workers have certain protections and rights afforded them through law and regulation. The team at Goodin Abernathy represents dismissed employees whose former employer violated these protections, resulting in a wrongful termination. If an employee suspects they have been wrongfully terminated, they should look for one of these eight signs.
1. The Reason Is Vague
An employer should be able to provide its employees with a clear explanation as to why they are dismissing an employee. If an employee requests the reason and the employer can’t or refuses to provide one, this could signify wrongful termination. As an employee, you have the right to request the reason in writing from the employer. However, if the employer refuses to provide them with this information in writing, it could be helpful to speak with a lawyer about a potential wrongful termination claim. Because every situation is different, an attorney will work with an employee to determine the viability of their potential claim.
2. Suspected Discrimination
It is illegal for an employer to fire someone solely based on their membership of a protected status. In addition, an employer cannot fire someone based on the perception that they belong to a protected group. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces anti-discrimination laws in the United States. These laws include the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and The Civil Rights Act of 1991, and others. Each of these laws protects individuals in the workplace to prevent discrimination based on the protected classes below.
- Skin color
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
It is important to understand that an employee can belong to a protected class and still be fired for lack of performance or another reason. Speaking with an experienced employment lawyer can help determine if an employer violated one of these employment protection laws.
3. Fired For Doing a Protected Activity
As a matter of public policy, employers cannot fire someone for performing a protected activity. This would include an incident of harassment or cooperating with an EEOC investigation. This is to protect people, so they don’t have to worry about their employment when tending to personal matters. It is a matter of public interest that people do not lose their jobs when they need them the most simply because they have a family or medical issue to take care of. An example of this would be getting pregnant or caring for a sick family member. These are protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
4. Experienced Harassment
Unfortunately, harassment still exists in the American workplace. While dealing with harassment at work is upsetting, it is even more so when it leads to termination. There are two ways an employee can be wrongfully terminated after experiencing harassment. In the first instance, an employee could face termination after rebuffing advances. This often occurs when an individual in a managerial role makes sexual advances toward someone in a lower position.
In a second scenario, an employee could be terminated after submitting a report of harassment. The company attempts to minimize the harassment by terminating the employee who is raising the alarm. Employees have a right to work in a harassment-free environment. Should they experience harassment from a fellow employee, they should feel safe in their position to report such treatment.
5. Reported Illegal Activities
There are laws in place to protect employees when they report misconduct or illegal activities. This is to encourage employees to say something when they see wrongdoing. A company cannot legally dismiss an employee because that employee came forward with a report of fraudulent, unethical, or illegal behavior. This would be retaliation through wrongful termination. This protection extends beyond the employee’s reporting. It also protects an employee participating in the investigation, lawsuit, or hearings about the reported inappropriate activity. If they are let go shortly after making a report of this nature, there is a possibility that the two events are related. Speaking with an employment retaliation lawyer can help employees understand their rights and possible wrongful termination case.
6. Performing Military or Civic Duty
As American citizens, we are sometimes called upon to perform obligations for the government. This could be responding to a letter calling them to jury duty or voting as a civilian. It could also be reporting to duty as a military service member. An employer cannot fire them for performing these government-called duties.
7. Asserted Employee Rights
Employees should be able to assert and exercise their rights without fear of termination. For example, an employer can’t fire an employee for enforcing their right to payment of wages earned or workplace safety. Should they get injured while working, their employer can’t fire them for reporting a workers’ compensation claim.
8. Contract Violation
The majority of workers are at-will. This means there is no specific contract outlining the terms of their employment. However, some employees have a contract outlining the specific terms of the working relationship between the employee and employer. If an employee has this type of contract, getting fired before contract completion could violate the agreement. They could be entitled to compensation depending on the terms of their employment contract.
Even if an employee is at-will, the company may have an agreement or policy protecting employees. If the employer fired an employee in direct violation of its own policy, this could signify wrongful termination.
Talk With a Lawyer About Your Dismissal
Getting dismissed from your company is never an enjoyable experience. It can feel stressful as you sort out your current situation and seek gainful employment. However, your firing may not be so straightforward. Wrongful termination can be subtle, requiring more in-depth analysis. Consider speaking with a wrongful termination lawyer if you suspect you are a victim of wrongful termination.
Schedule a consultation with one of our wrongful termination attorneys to discuss the circumstances surrounding your dismissal.