Wrongful termination can be asserted when an employee has reason to believe that he or she was unlawfully fired. Wrongful termination claims can be won when the plaintiff shows that the employer fired them in violation of state or federal law.
As straightforward as that explanation may seem, it’s not always easy to determine whether a separation from employment rises to the level of a wrongful termination – especially if you were the employee who was fired.
There are some misconceptions people hold about wrongful termination that can result in fired employees not reaching out to a lawyer. Understanding these misconceptions and why they are incorrect, however, may help you determine whether or not you should reach out to an attorney. Read on as we explain three incorrect assumptions people often make about wrongful termination.
1. If You Disagree with the Reason Why Your Employer Fired You, You Were Wrongfully Terminated
A misunderstanding of what “wrongful” means in a legal context causes a lot of confusion about what wrongful termination is really all about. If you were fired for a reason that you think is ludicrous or weren’t given a reason at all, no one could fault you for thinking this sounds like grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. However, your employer may have acted well within his or her rights if you were employed at-will.
West Virginia is an “at-will” employment state. That means your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all – so long as the termination does not violate state or federal law.
A firing is unlawful where, among other things, discrimination against a person for a protected characteristic (such as age, gender, or race) played a factor, or if the employer retaliated against an employee for engaging in a protected workplace activity (such as complaining about workplace safety, patient safety, or reporting sexual harassment). In either case, the employer may have broken the law by firing the employee.
2. It’s Impossible to Prove Retaliatory Termination
Some employees who believe their employer retaliated against them and unlawfully terminated their employment believe that it is next to impossible to win in against their employer. Trust us, with the right lawyer, wrongfully terminated employees often win in wrongful termination claims, even against the biggest companies.
This is because West Virginia law takes into account that a wrongfully terminated employee often does not have a “smoking gun” document where an employer admits they fired an employee for an unlawful reason. In other words, West Virginia judges and juries can consider that an employer would likely hide the reason behind the unlawful termination of an employee. So long as a wrongfully terminated employee can convince a judge or jury that it is more than 50 percent likely that they were fired as a result of an unlawful reason, the employee can win.
3: If You Quit, You Give Up Your Chance to Sue
Common sense would have you believe that you can’t sue for wrongful termination if you voluntarily quit, but this isn’t necessarily true. West Virginia recognizes constructive discharge, which is where an employer forces an employee to resign or quit by making his or her work environment so intolerable that they have no other choice but to leave the job. This is more common than you would think.
Your employer may have tried to force your resignation because you:
- Reported sexual harassment
- Reported concerns about patient safety or medical fraud
- Reported discrimination
- Spoke up against unsafe work practices or
- Filed a worker’s compensation claim
A plaintiff making this claim will need to demonstrate that the work environment was intolerable. They must also show that they reported what they believed to be unlawful conduct and that the employer retaliated against them for doing so.
In other words: It is unlawful for your employer to make your life at work a living nightmare if the objective is to force you off the job for standing up for yourself or others by reporting unlawful conduct.
Do You Need an Attorney’s Help?
At Bailess Smith PLLC, we’re here to help employees assert their rights after enduring mistreatment from their employers. If you believe you are a victim of wrongful termination, reach out to us today for a free consultation and learn more about what our attorney can do for you. We may be able to help you pursue fair and just compensation, including monetary damages.
Contact us online or call (304) 553-0337 today to ask about scheduling your free initial consultation.