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What is a Wrongful Termination?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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Wrongful termination is a situation in which an employee is discharged illegally. If the discharged employee can prove that he or she was wrongfully terminated, he or she may be able to sue the employer, and the employer may also be fined by the government, depending on the circumstances and the nation. It is important to distinguish between wrongful termination in the sense of a firing which violates the law, and in the sense of a firing which feels unfair or wrong. In the second case, there is no legal basis for a lawsuit, no matter how upset or abused the employee feels.

Laws about wrongful termination vary around the world. Usually, in order to constitute wrongful termination, a firing must demonstrate a clear violation of the law. For example, in nations with anti-discrimination laws, someone who is fired because of his or her ethnic origin could prove a wrongful termination suit. Terminations which violate labor laws, laws surrounding military service, and family leave laws may also be illegal terminations, as would retaliatory firings used to punish whistleblowers, or firings which breach employment contracts.

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Many regions have what is known as “at-will employment,” which means that employer and employee can terminate the employment at any time. Even with at-will employment, however, there are cases in which employees may be wrongfully fired beyond those listed above. If, for example, an at-will employer offers benefits to people who have been employed for over one year and it fires people to avoid paying those benefits, this could be considered wrongful termination.

Employees who are fired as a result of interpersonal conflicts generally have no basis for proving wrongful termination, unless they can show that the firing somehow violated a discrimination law. Likewise with employees fired for negligence or breach of contract. Even if the employee suspects that the charge has been invented to create an excuse for a firing, unless this can be proved, that employee has no legal recourse.

Both employers and employees should be aware of their rights. When an employment contract is signed, both sides should take the time to read it, and if clauses are not fully understood, it is better to ask questions before signing, rather than after. In unionized workplaces, there may be additional protections in place, such as a system of escalating warnings which must be delivered before an employee can be legally fired. Local employment or labor bureaus also tend to have information about wrongful termination and employee rights, and spending a few hours to familiarize oneself with that information can be very valuable.

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CanHeDoIt
Post 3

I was hired at a local sheriff's office as a jail tech. This is a non-certified position. The position was explained to me as an office position in the jail with hours similar to bank hours.

From the first day I started, they put me on a shift schedule of four days, with twelve hour shifts each day and every two weeks we change from days to nights. I am only paid for a 40 hour work week. I am also only paid as a jail tech, even though I am doing a deputy's job.

Six years later, my sheriff is under investigation for having people doing jobs they shouldn't and several other issues. When this all became public, the

sheriff called me in and told me that I now have to go to the peace officer training program and become a deputy. He has also never let me work the hours that they told me in my interview, and they have had me doing the job of a full time deputy. If I don't go, I will be let go from my job.

Over the last few months, the intimidation to go to the academy started with threats of dropping my pay if I didn't, and possibly moving me to part time. Is this a legal situation?

anon167833
Post 2

i was out of medical leave and had gotten a promotion about four months prior to leaving. When i returned from medical leave promotion was taken away and they hired a few people to take over the position.

They made a month very hard and harassing for me, then they fired me. I don't agree with this situation but there's nothing i can do but move on.

anon88321
Post 1

i work a rotating shift at a paper mill. i was just transferred to a new job that pays a lot more than my old job but when i started my new job they put me on 12 hours at night, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for 22 weeks straight. I asked my boss about what was going on and he said it was a mistake so i called the employee hotline. now they are making my job hard and harassing me. what can be done about it?

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