Wrongful termination is a term a lot of people are familiar with but don’t often fully understand. This is a term that refers to firing an employee for an illegal reason, which is typically rooted in discrimination or retaliation for an employee’s lawful actions.
If you were recently fired from your job, it’s worth it to take stock of your situation and ask yourself if you may have been wrongfully terminated. Check out some questions below to help prime you for this self-imposed questionnaire, but should you have any doubts, consult with an employment law attorney like ours at Bailess Smith PLLC for help!
1. Does It Feel Like My Race, Skin Color, National Origin, Religion, Played a Role?
Someone’s appearance, belief system, or where in the world they are from should never factor into a decision about whether or not to fire them. This is foundational to all federal and state laws that prohibit employment discrimination.
Despite these laws, employers all too often let their personal prejudices guide their employment decisions. This is entirely illegal and employees who have been fired because of their race, skin color, national origin, or religion are likely to have strong grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
2. Do I Suspect My Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation Factored into My Employer’s Decision?
Until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June this year, employers nationwide were free to discriminate against employees based upon their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. The justices found in a 6-3 decision that sexual orientation and gender identity were protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees against sex discrimination.
If you were fired after June 15, 2020, and believe it was due to your gender identity or sexual orientation, you may have a valid wrongful termination claim. Consult with an attorney to explore your legal options.
3. Did I Recently Report or Complain to Someone about Sexual Harassment?
A lot of recent attention has been drawn on sexual harassment thanks to the #MeToo movement. Despite this new wave of awareness and advocacy to create new laws that protect workers against sexual misconduct, it still remains a pervasive problem.
Because many companies and individuals have come under fire for sexual harassment allegations, employers may seek to oust those who report it. This, of course, is illegal because reporting unlawful behavior such as sexual harassment is a legally protected activity at work. Any firing that was meant to silence or prevent someone from reporting sexual harassment may form a strong basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
4. Did I Request a Reasonable Accommodation for My Disability?
Employees with disabilities recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are entitled to request and receive reasonable accommodation to help them perform essential functions of their role. Reasonable accommodation may be anything from an adjusted work schedule to preferred parking, special furniture, a different workspace layout, special software, and more.
While most requests for accommodation are low-cost or free to implement, employers may be unsettled or annoyed by the request and fire the employee for being “disagreeable” or “difficult to work with.” Some may even try to claim that the requests clashed with the company’s culture as the reason for firing. In any case, it’s illegal to fire an employee for requesting reasonable accommodation.
In fact, employers are obligated to provide accommodation unless they are prepared to demonstrate that doing so would cause them an undue hardship – and that’s not an argument so easily won in such cases.
5. Have I Ever Reported Someone Else’s Wrongdoing or Illegal Activity?
Reporting sexual harassment is a protected activity, but so too is reporting any kind of unlawful activity at work. Whether it’s an instance of discrimination someone witnessed, a supervisor altering timecards to remove overtime hours, or even criminal activity taking place at work, whistleblowing on any of these activities and others is protected by state and federal law. Employers who fire employees for engaging in any protected activity are liable for wrongful termination claims.
6. Does It Seem Like My Pregnancy Got Me Fired?
It’s illegal to take someone’s pregnancy into account when an employer is deciding whether or not to terminate their employment. Yet, many employers are willing to take the risk to avoid making massive adjustments to compensate for that employee’s absence if she takes FMLA or another kind of leave. Pregnant employees may also need reasonable accommodations to their workstation or the office to accommodate changes to their body – something that some employers may think isn’t serious enough to deal with.
As crazy as it sounds, an employer may even be motivated to terminate an employee based on assumptions about how dedicated their employee will be to their work if they have a child. No matter what, however, an employer cannot consider an employee’s pregnancy when deciding to terminate them or not. Choosing to do so could easily generate liability for a wrongful termination claim.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you believe you experienced wrongful termination, please reach out to our attorneys at Bailess Smith PLLC for help. Our attorneys can help you fight for the fair and just compensation you deserve if your employer took advantage of you or failed to protect your rights. Learn more about what we can do for you by scheduling a free consultation with us today.
Get in touch with Bailess Smith PLLC by contacting us online or calling (304) 553-0337.