Many employees that are unexpectedly terminated from their job are often left feeling betrayed by their employer, believing that they were treated unfairly and wondering if there is anything legally they can do to regain employment or hold an employer accountable.
Although an employee may not agree with an employer’s decision to fire them, it is important to understand that in most cases, employment is at will, meaning an employer in the private sector has the right to terminate an employee at any time for any reason unless their actions are illegal or contrary to an agreement.
Wrongful Termination and Employment Discrimination
A glaring example of unlawful termination includes employment discrimination which includes taking an adverse employment action against an employee – including termination – on the basis of an employee’s sex, race, color, age, national origin, disability, and religion.
Disregarding an Implied Employment Contract or Agreement
Termination may also be illegal if an employer disregards an implied contract or agreement. If an employer promised continued employment, but fails to abide by the agreement, a court may find that the employment termination was unlawful.
Fired for Military Obligations or Other Violations of Public Policy
Wrongful termination may also involve firing an employee because their military obligations. An employee may be required to mobilize on active duty for extended periods or serve two weeks out of the year and one weekend a month in the reserve, which might be frowned upon by an employer. However, if an employer fires an employee because of their military service, or for that matter, missing work to perform jury duty, or for refusing to engage in illegal conduct, the termination is illegal as it violates public policy.
Retaliation Against an Employee for Reporting Discrimination or Safety Hazard
An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for reporting illegal activity, which include terminating employment. Retaliation related to an employee reporting workplace discrimination is prohibited as is retaliating against a whistleblower who reports safety issues in the workplace. It is also worth noting that an employer may not fire an employee on disability leave after a work injury or for taking FMLA leave simply because it poses an inconvenience to the employer.
Employers Must Fulfill Certain Obligations After Employment Termination
If an employer has not acted unlawfully, an employee may not have any legal recourse if they are terminated. However, it is incumbent on the employer to fulfill certain obligations post-employment, which include issuing a final paycheck for work performed; paying an employee severance pay under any existing contractual agreements between an employer and employee; providing for the continuation of health coverage when applicable; and paying unemployment compensation if the employee qualifies.
Contact an Experienced Employment Law Attorney
Unexpectedly losing employment often leaves individuals and families reeling. When you have been terminated from your job, it is important to understand that you have certain rights regardless of the reason for your termination. If an employer fails to fulfill their legal obligations or if you believe you were terminated unlawfully, it is important to explore you legal options. For more information regarding wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and answers to other employment law questions, contact the Wisconsin employment law attorneys of Alan C. Olson for immediate assistance at 262-785-9606.