What is Wrongful Termination?

Meaning & Definition

Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination, also known as wrongful dismissal or wrongful discharge, refers to the unlawful termination of an employee’s employment by their employer. In cases of wrongful termination, an employee is typically fired or laid off in violation of employment laws, employment contracts, or public policy. Wrongful termination can lead to legal consequences for the employer and may result in financial compensation or other remedies for the employee.

There are various scenarios that may constitute wrongful termination, including:

  • Discrimination

Termination based on an employee’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or other protected characteristics as defined by anti-discrimination laws (e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act).

  • Retaliation

Firing an employee in retaliation for engaging in legally protected activities, such as reporting workplace harassment, discrimination, safety violations, or participating in whistleblower actions.

  • Violation of Employment Contract

Terminating an employee in violation of an employment contract, which may specify the conditions and reasons for termination.

  • Breach of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Terminating an employee in bad faith, for an improper purpose, or in violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

  • Public Policy Violation

Firing an employee for reasons that violate established public policy, such as refusing to engage in illegal activities or exercising legal rights.

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Violation

Wrongfully terminating an employee for taking legally protected leave under the FMLA.

  • Violations of Whistleblower Protection Laws

Firing an employee for reporting illegal or unethical conduct by the employer, as protected under federal or state whistleblower laws.

  • Protected Leave Violation

Termination in violation of an employee’s rights to protected leaves of absence, such as military leave, jury duty, or voting leave.

Employees who believe they have been wrongfully terminated may pursue legal action against their former employer. Remedies for wrongful termination may include reinstatement, back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages (in cases of egregious misconduct by the employer), and attorney’s fees.

It is essential for employees to be aware of their rights and the applicable employment laws in their jurisdiction, as these laws can vary significantly from one place to another. Additionally, documentation of events, communications, and interactions with the employer can be crucial in establishing a case of wrongful termination. Employees who believe they have been wrongfully terminated should seek legal advice to assess the specific circumstances and determine the appropriate course of action.

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