Most employment in the United States is “at will,” meaning that an employer can end your employment at their discretion. But there are a few exceptions, covered by an area known as wrongful dismissal law. Here are some reasons your employer isn’t allowed to use to fire you:
An employer isn’t allowed to fire you based on your race, nationality, religion, sex or age. In about half the states, you can’t be discriminated against based on your sexual orientation, either. There are a few related categories that also receive protection, such as disability and pregnancy. An employment lawyer can consult with you if you feel your right to a discrimination-free workplace has been infringed.
- Work-Related Injury:
An employer may not fire you simply because you were injured in the course of performing your work duties. Depending on the details of your employment, you may be eligible for workman’s compensation; even if you aren’t but an injury leaves you with a disability, your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for that disability. An employer does not have to retain you for a job if you’re unable to perform its basic duties, but must do the minimum to help you do your job. This might include something like a larger computer screen, wheelchair ramps or a modified work schedule. If you’re unsure as to whether your injury-related firing was unlawful, check with a personal injury lawyer who can review all the information before you go to proceed, preventing costly errors. Often though, these cases can be settled before a trial; only 4% of personal injury lawsuits are settled in court.
Wrongful dismissal law prevents an employer from firing you as retaliation if he or she has asked you to do something outside your job duties and you have refused. If, for example, you have rejected sexual advances or refused to do something illegal, and your employer fires or threatens to fire you, he or she is clearly in the wrong. You also cannot be fired for filing a workman’s comp claim.
- Contractual Agreement:
This area is a little trickier, but if you can prove that an employer gave you an expectation of job security (such as in a contract) or didn’t follow termination procedures as mandated by the company and distributed to employees, you may have a case for wrongful dismissal. The exact details of wrongful dismissal law vary from state to state, so consult an attorney who is an expert in your immediate location.
The best way to protect yourself is to know your rights as an employee. Most successful wrongful dismissal cases lead either to the employee being reinstated or receiving monetary compensation. Approximately 67% of lawsuits brought by employees that go to court in the United States are successful. Get more here.