Workers depend on their jobs not just for income but also for key benefits, like health insurance. Additionally, someone’s employment often contributes to their sense of self-esteem. Losing a job can be a major hardship, especially when the economy isn’t great or when someone works in a very specialized field.
Often, workers who lose their jobs unexpectedly have no choice but to try to move on elsewhere. However, there are those who may be in a position to take action against their former employer for wrongful termination. While state law does allow companies to fire workers for almost any reason or sometimes no reason at all, there are still some scenarios in which the decision to fire someone or lay them off would constitute wrongful termination.
When a company fires someone for speaking up about concerns or exercising a legally-protected right
Workers should be able to approach their employers about safety concerns that they worry may endanger people. They also have the right to bring attention to issues involving harassment or discrimination in the workplace and to exercise legally-protected rights, like taking leave after the birth of a child. Those who speak up for themselves and others should not have to worry about punitive actions taken by their employers, as punishing those who report safety issues or misconduct is retaliation. If a company lets a worker go right after they speak up about workplace issues, then the termination could be wrongful.
When a company lays off a specific group of people
Downsizing and layoffs often mean hardship for the affected employees, as there will suddenly be a glut of workers on the market and few available jobs in the field. Companies have the right to reduce their companies have the right to reduce their staff rosters to balance their budgets. However, companies should not engage in layoffs or terminations that target specific groups of workers. If everyone over a certain age lost their job or almost every worker of a certain race was laid off, those could be warning signs of wrongful termination and discrimination.
Companies that punish workers for engaging in protected activity or that consider their protected, personal characteristics when making employment decisions may open themselves up to legal action from affected workers. Being able to recognize wrongful termination when it occurs can help workers better protect themselves from this common form of company misconduct. Seeking legal guidance is also helpful as well.