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Could your firing be a wrongful termination?

It's quite normal when you are fired to feel that it was wrong for your employer to let you go, particularly where you have questions and are unsure of the employer's reasons for firing you. But did your employer act improperly, perhaps even illegally?

The actual legal definition of wrongful termination is quite specific and may be rather narrow in its classification of what actions constitute wrongful termination. So, how do you determine if you have a case against your employer for wrongful termination?

Generally speaking, to be wrongfully terminated means that you were fired for an illegal reason. Some obvious examples of this would be a discriminatory firing based on the employee's race, religion, gender, or other protected classification. It is likewise unlawful for an employer to discriminate or terminate an employee based on a medical condition or family medical history.

Additionally, a retaliatory firing is also illegal. For instance, a firing in retaliation against an employee who brought a complaint or legal action against the employer, or filed a workers compensation claim would be an unlawful termination. The law also protects workers engaging in "protected concerted activity," so you may not be fired for things such as discussing union activity or ways to improve working conditions or wages with coworkers. It is important to note however, that the definition of actions falling under "protected concerted activity" is quite narrow.

Most employees are considered to be employees at will, which means that your employer does not need a reason to fire you - even so, protections still exist. However, if you have an employment contract your termination may have been wrongful if it was in violation of the terms of this contract. In any case, it can be helpful to consult with an attorney experienced in employment law issues to determine if there are concerns over whether a wrongful termination took place and if so, how to seek the appropriate remedy.

Source: The Muse, "So You Just Got Fired - Was It Wrongful Termination?" Laura Genovich, accessed on Dec. 19, 2017