At-will employment is the norm in the U.S. — meaning that employers can fire an employee without a reason. That being said, termination cannot be based on retaliation or discrimination. An estimated 150,000 workers are wrongfully terminated every year. When employees are fired for illegal reasons, the employee can pursue a wrongful termination claim. Let’s take a closer look at common wrongful termination examples and how to determine whether you have a case.
7 Wrongful Termination Examples
Wrongful termination can take many forms. Some of the most common examples of wrongful termination include the following.
1. Retaliation for a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a workers’ compensation claim to result in retaliation and wrongful termination.
In this type of situation:
- An employee is injured while on the job and files a workers’ compensation claim.
- The employee is then fired or laid off shortly after filing the claim.
If you were hurt on the job and fired after applying for or trying to obtain workers’ compensation, you may have a wrongful termination case.
Employers may not terminate employees for filing for workers’ comp, and they are also prohibited from terminating or threatening to fire employees who testify in workers’ compensation proceedings.
California law even prohibits employers from terminating employees for taking time off because of a work-related injury and for rehabilitating that injury.
2. Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment
It’s estimated that up to 81% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and men account for 1 in 5 complaints of harassment.
It’s believed that many more employees are the victims of sexual harassment, but they’re afraid to come forward out of fear of retaliation and being fired.
Employees are protected against retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If an employee reports sexual harassment to HR or management and is fired shortly after making the claim, that employee may have a wrongful termination case.
3. Age Discrimination
Age discrimination is more common in the workplace than you may think. Management may treat young employees differently than older employees when it comes to disciplinary actions.
If something goes wrong and younger employees get a slap on the wrist while an older employee is fired, this may be a case of age discrimination.
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), workers over the age of 40 are protected from age discrimination in all aspects of employment, including terminations and layoffs.
If an employee over the age of 40 is fired because of their age, this would be considered age discrimination and wrongful termination.
4. Wage and Hour Dispute Termination
Employees have a right to fair wages, and they should be able to raise concerns about their compensation without the threat of being fired or retaliation.
Wage and hour violations can include:
- Not meeting minimum wage requirements
- Not allowing employees to take meal or rest breaks
- Not paying for overtime
- Misclassification of workers
Naturally, raising disputes can be intimidating for employees who may be concerned about retaliation and termination. But workers are protected by law against retaliation, and that includes wage and hour disputes.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs how wage and hour disputes should be handled.
If workers are fired while fighting for unpaid wages overtime or commissions, they may have a case for wrongful termination.
5. Racial Discrimination
State and federal laws make it very clear that employees cannot be discriminated against because of their race or the color of their skin.
Examples of racial discrimination can include:
- Making promotion, firing, and hiring decisions based on race.
- Segregating employees of one race in certain jobs.
- Stereotyping based on employee race.
Racial discrimination creates a toxic and hostile work environment. When employees are fired because of racial discrimination or raising complaints about discrimination, this may be considered wrongful termination.
6. Whistleblower Retaliation
If an employer is engaging in illegal activities, employees have a right to report that illicit conduct. They are also protected against being fired for retaliation for bringing these activities to the attention of the authorities.
Illicit activities can range from safety violations to fraud.
If employees are fired for reporting illegal activities, this could be considered wrongful termination.
7. Violating the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA provides protection for workers who need to take time off of work due to illness, taking care of a loved one, or taking care of a new baby. Under this law, employees may return to their previous position without retaliation from the employer for taking time off.
FMLA applies to private employers that have at least 50 employees for 20 weeks or more per year. Employees are eligible if they work for the employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours. When eligible, employees may receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for covered circumstances, such as caring for a new baby.
If you were fired due to taking family or medical leave, you may have a wrongful termination claim.
Do You Have A Wrongful Termination Claim?
If any of the above circumstances apply to you, you may have a valid wrongful termination case. The best way to determine whether you have a case is to contact an employee rights lawyer who has experience with these and other wrongful termination examples.