Wrongful Termination Troy
In Troy, “employment-at-will” laws mean that employers can terminate the employee at any time for any reason. Likewise, an employee may decide to quit for any reason – or for no reason at all – without warning. These laws mean that, in most cases, you do not have legal recourse if you have been discharged from your job, even if there didn’t seem to be any basis for the termination.
In certain cases, however, employment termination is an actionable offense. These scenarios include:
- You were terminated because of illegal discrimination
- Your termination was a form of employer retaliation
- You were discharged in an attempt to prevent you from collecting or obtaining deserved benefits
There are several other situations that could constitute wrongful termination. If you have reason to believe that you were discharged for an illegal reason or on the basis of discriminatory action on the part of your employer, it is crucial that you seek experienced counsel from one of our employment lawyers who is thoroughly familiar with this field of law. You could be entitled to monetary benefits.
Our wrongful terminations attorneys have represented numerous victims of wrongful termination and are prepared to put this experience to work for you. Get help from a firm that is solely dedicated to protecting the rights of workers, unlike other firms in the area.
Call 855-596-4657 today to set up an initial case consultation at the firm’s Troy location.
What Is a Wrongful Termination?
A wrongful termination is any firing that is illegal. A firing is illegal when it:
- Violates a federal, state, or local law, or
- Violates an employment contract.
Just because a termination is unfair doesn’t make it illegal. For example, it might be unfair for your boss to fire you so he can hire his inexperienced niece or nephew. However, because there’s no law against nepotism, you wouldn’t have a wrongful termination claim.
Violation of Federal, State, or Local Laws
The default rule in the United States is “at-will employment.” This means employers can fire employees at any time, for any reason. However, there is one important exception to this rule. Employers cannot fire at-will employees for illegal reasons. Federal, state, and local laws carve out a handful of reasons that are illegal. For example, it’s illegal to fire employees due to their race or gender.
Violation of Employment Contract
Employees no longer work at-will when they have an employment contract. We usually think of employment contracts as being written, but they can also be formed by words and actions. (See our article explaining how employers create employment contracts and alter at-will employment.) A contract employee cannot be fired if it would violate the terms of the contract. Typically, this means that employers cannot fire employees with having a good reason (called “cause”) before the term of the contract is up. Employers also can’t fire contract employees in violation of state, federal, or local laws.
How Do I File a Wrongful Termination Claim?
If your wrongful termination claim is based on discrimination or harassment, you will need to file an administrative complaint first (called a “charge”). You must typically file your charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—or a state agency that enforces antidiscrimination laws—within 180 days of the discrimination or harassment. The EEOC or the state agency will investigate your complaint and decide whether to take action. Most of the time, the EEOC will simply issue a “right-to-sue” letter, which allows you to file your wrongful termination lawsuit in court.
The process of filing an EEOC charge is relatively simple. You can file your claim in person at one of the EEOC’s local field offices or you can file your claim by mail. To file by mail, send a letter to the EEOC with your contract information, your employer’s contact information, an explanation of how you were discriminated against or harassed, and when these events happened. You must also sign your letter.
While you don’t need a lawyer to file an administrative charge, it’s often helpful to do so, especially if you plan on filing a lawsuit down the road. Once you file your claim, the EEOC will speak to you, your employer, and any relevant witnesses. The information that the EEOC gathers can be used as evidence in your subsequent wrongful termination lawsuit. The EEOC may also try to facilitate a settlement negotiation between you and your employer. A wrongful termination lawyer will ensure that you’re receiving a fair offer and that you don’t give up any rights that you shouldn’t.
For most other types of wrongful terminations claims, you aren’t required to file a claim with an administrative agency first (although you may have the option). You can go straight to filing a lawsuit in court. For this, you will almost certainly need the assistance of an employment lawyer.
Facing An Unfair Dismissal Claim?
Firing employees can be a process that causes you some backlash later if you have not dotted all your i's and crossed all your t's. Of course as the boss you do have the right to hire or let go workers. With firing though, there are certain safeguards that you really need to take to ensure you are protected from an unfair dismissal claim. Know the law and protect yourself, as you can only fire a worker under the right circumstances. The law is laid out in the Employment Rights Act (1996).
It is quite a detailed and fairly clear act and states there are several circumstances where letting a person go is considered to be unquestionably unfair. If any worker is dismissed on one of the stated grounds they have a right to lay an unfair dismissal claim whether they have been working for a week or a number of years. Other grounds do exist, but they have a one- year qualifying period.
What constitutes unfair dismissal? Workers absolutely cannot be let go for participating in trade union activities or for refusing to join one. They are allowed to carry out such duties when appropriate. If a trade union worker is declared redundant, that is the basis for a claim.
Any firings based on race, colour, creed, gender or other well-known and documented human rights issues is unfair and would result in a claim almost immediately. There are two ways this could careen out of control - either a claim for unfair dismissal or a discrimination suit. The discrimination suit would be very stiff. Dismissal on the grounds of being pregnant or taking maternity leave is automatic as it is for those let go for taking parental or adoption leave.
If you sought more flexible work hours or asked for equal treatment as a part time worker and lost your job because of that, you have grounds for an unfair dismissal claim.
The number of grounds stated in the act are fairly exhaustive and do include other things like being turfed for asking for the minimum wage and asking for someone to go with you to a disciplinary hearing. The law relating to this area of employment is volatile and liquid, so it is best to keep up with what is going on. This of course is difficult to do if you are trying to run a company at the same time. Outsourcing is the perfect answer. Get professional advice from a firm that can help you through the legal jargon. Unfair dismissal cases are long and involved and can cause some serious problems for your company.
What To Do If You've Been Wrongfully Terminated
The defendant resigned and found employment with one of the claimant's competitors. Shortly after her resignation, the claimant discovered that the defendant had sent three e-mails to her personal e-mail account prior to leaving the company. The e-mails concerned:
* Presentations she had made to the claimant's customers;
* Feedback which customers had given in relation to the claimant's services; and
* Prices of the claimant's products.
The claimant was of the opinion that the information contained in the e-mails was confidential and therefore violated the terms of the defendant's contract of employment. The claimant confronted the defendant with its discovery.
The defendant said that she had sent the e-mails to her personal e-mail account in error, and offered to let the claimant view her personal e-mail account to show that she had not breached the terms of her contract. The claimant tried to persuade the defendant to stay in its employment, but was unsuccessful.
The claimant then instructed its solicitors to write to the defendant alleging that the defendant had breached the terms of her employment which amounted to breach of confidence. The claimant also requested the return of all its materials which were in the defendant's possession. The defendant replied to the letter stating that the e-mails were not sent to anyone else, and that once the error had been discovered, she had not even opened them.
The claimant did not respond to her letter. They instead issued proceedings against her and applied for an interim injunction. They alleged that the sending of the e-mails to her personal account amounted to her 'using' confidential information in contravention to her contractual obligations. They also alleged that by her failing to immediately return their materials, she had further breached the terms of her contract.
The claim was dismissed. The court held the where the e-mails had remained unopened the confidential information had not been 'used' in a way which amounted to breach of confidence. Although she had not immediately returned the materials, she had previously offered the claimant the permission to view her personal e-mail account and to delete the e-mails relating to the claimant's confidential information.
In addition to this, the court held that the information which was the subject of the claimant's complaint was utterly innocuous and that the claimant had reacted totally disproportionately. The matter should not have been taken to court and the defendant's undertakings had been adequate.
© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.