How to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
Getting fired or let go from your job is a terribly traumatic event. In just under 24 hours, your entire life can get flipped upside down: the sudden loss of a steady income, especially when you face monthly bills you have to pay and other financial obligation to not only yourself, but your family.
Employers do not always follow the law when it comes to terminating employees from their job. When employers discharge employees unlawfully it is called “wrongful termination,” which gives employees the ability to file a lawsuit against their employer for wrongfully firing or letting go of them. A successful wrongful termination lawsuit can get you your job back, more often than not, tension between the employee and the employer runs high and the courts may avoid doing so. But the courts can also give you a settlement or appropriate compensation package for the illegal firing that was brought upon you.
Wrongful termination can be based on a variety of violations which the employer has committed against the law. Here are a few of the violations that your employer may have committed when they terminated your employment:
- Breach of Contract: If the employee signed a contract stating certain aspects and guarantees of the job, it may be considered wrongful termination if the terms and conditions that were inscribed onto the contract were broken or violated.
- Employee Leave: It is unlawful for employers to terminate employees who request or take a legitimate leave of absence for family or medical reasons.
- Retaliation Fire: If an employee brings to light violations against the company for which they work, an employer may not retaliate by terminating that employee.
- Discrimination: It is against the law for employers to fire employees based on things like age, race, gender, religion, country of origin, et cetera. This is the most common form of wrongful termination.
Once you figure out the reason your employer wrongfully terminated you, you will have to begin to gather evidence in order to build upon your claim. An experienced attorney can help you build your case and formulate a legal argument to help you win your case.
Filing a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
Before you file a lawsuit against your employer, you must first submit an administrative charge with a government administrative agency, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You must contact the EEOC and then submit your claim, along with your evidence, which will be requested by the agency in order for them to examine your case.
In addition, you will need to gather evidence which shows it was more likely than not that your employer acted unlawfully. This means that the evidence that you and your lawyer collect must show that your employer probably deviated from normal policy and treated your termination differently than others. Here are a few tips on how you can gather strong evidence against your employer:
- Ask your former employer why he terminated your employment. If you can, take notes. Ask that your employer put in writing the reason, or reasons, they terminated your employment. (It is prohibited to record a conversation in these states unless there is consent by all parties involved: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington.)
- Request your personnel file. It is best to have copies of all documents that are related to your termination. Most employers do not have to legally hand over their files, but it is always worth a shot. Your lawyer may subpoena your employer for those files later if necessary.
- Record everything in your journal. A journal in which you write all necessary information will keep your organized and can streamline the entire process. Write down names, relevant contract information, statements. Include references to other employees who were not fired even though their performance was similar to your own: this may help determine if there was a double-standard. Witness information is worth jotting down as well.
- Determine if your employer terminated your employment on unlawful grounds. If you and your attorney conclude there was a breach of contract or discrimination that lead to your discharge, file an EEOC complaint and make copies of your application and any communication with the EEOC.
The EEOC can grant you a “right-to-sue” letter, which allows you to file a lawsuit (based on the violation your employer committed) against your employer. Based on which law your employer violated, you will have a certain amount of time to file this suit.
What an Attorney Can Do for You
It is not necessary to have an attorney as you file the EEOC complaint, but if you are serious about pursuing your wrongful termination and get the compensations to which you are entitled, it is always a good idea to do so in order for them to guide you through the intricacies of the law in accordance to your state and locality, and represent you with their knowledge of the law. In most wrongful termination cases, your employer’s records must be reviewed and are normally only accessible through a subpoena which a legal attorney must request.
Attorneys can also take court-ordered depositions of employers, employees (who both presently and used to work there), witnesses, and more. Depositions are recorded, sworn statements which may help you provide evidence for your lawsuit against your former boss.
Wrongful Termination Compensation
- Lost Pay — The pay you would have earned if you had not been terminated, as well as any overtime, unpaid and earned wages, or other forms of compensation that the employer did not give out.
- Lost Benefits — The cost and amount that your benefits have in terms of dollars is rather difficult to quantify without an expert to evaluate everything you accrued.
- Emotional Distress — Your termination may have caused some emotional distress, also known as “pain and suffering,” but is generally only granted if there is enough evidence that shows the employer acted with malice when they terminated your employment.
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