What is Involved in Appealing a Dismissal?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2019
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When an employee is dismissed or terminated from employment, if he or she feels that the dismissal was unfair or illegal, then he or she may have both internal and legal options. Appealing a dismissal through the employer or filing a lawsuit may be options for a terminated employee. The first step in appealing a dismissal may be to follow any internal procedures dictated by the company itself. If the employee does not receive a favorable result, then filing a lawsuit in court may be required. In the event that the employee loses the lawsuit at the trial level, then he or she may appeal that decision to an appellate court.

In some large companies or government agencies, there is a written procedure for appealing a dismissal. Internal appeal procedures such as this often include a hearing with a group of people appointed to handle employment disputes. If there is no internal procedure for appealing a dismissal, then the employee will need to take his or her grievance to a court of law.


Some jurisdictions provide statutory or constitutional protection against an employee being terminated without just cause. In Mexico, for instance, an employee may not be dismissed without a showing of just cause. In the United States, however, most employment is considered "at will." "At will" employment basically means that the employer may terminate the employee at any time and for any reason. If the employee's employment was at will, then appealing a dismissal is usually an uphill battle, unless the dismissal was the result of one of the exceptions to the at will nature of employment.

Within the United States, an exception to the at will nature of employment exists when the employer and employee have a signed employment contract. If an employment contract exists, then the laws of contract apply, allowing the employee to file a wrongful termination or breach of contract lawsuit. A judge will look to the terms of the contract to determine if the dismissal was justified. In this case, an employee may choose to appeal the judge's decision to a higher court if the judge decides in favor of the employer.

An employee may also decide to pursue appealing a dismissal if he or she feels the dismissal was the result of discrimination. While most employment in the United States is at will, an employer is not allowed to terminate an employee based on discriminatory factors. If an employee believes he or she was terminated on the basis of one of a number of protected characteristics, such as race or ethnicity, then he or she may file an employment discrimination lawsuit to challenge the dismissal.


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