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How Must I Prove in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?

January 18th, 2021

Companies fire employees for legitimate reasons, such as poor job performance, stealing, and blatant disregard for company policies. However, there are circumstances when employees are terminated for reasons that are against the law. There are many local, state, and federal laws in place to prevent companies from firing employees, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination. Employers cannot discriminate against workers for their protected characteristics, such as race, age, and gender or sex. Firing an employee for any of these reasons could constitute a wrongful termination lawsuit; however, a plaintiff must show evidence, such as a breach of contract or recorded instances of discrimination. A lawyer can help a worker with their case.

What is the Goal of a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?

Wrongful termination suits generally focus on whether or not the firing was appropriate and if there were other available options. Wrongful termination laws look at whether or not the employment contract was expressed or implied, but what does this actually mean? Most contracts fall into the “at will” employment category. This means that the employee was hired but can be fired at any time, as long as it is legal. There can be a specified reason, but this is not always necessary. The employment contract can have written statements that can help a worker build a case, though. An employment contract can included specific reasons for termination, such as failing to meet sales quotas within a time period or sharing company secrets with a competitor.

Additionally, a contract can also include the agreed-upon duration of employment and timing for performance-based reviews. Some may also have clauses that allow employees time for corrective action after they have been warned about a possible firing. Wrongful termination cases look into whether or not the firing went against the employee-employer agreement.

How Does an Employment Contract Impact a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?

An at-will contract can complicate a wrongful termination lawsuit case because an employer can use it to fire an employee without providing valid reasons. Unless there is another employment agreement between the two parties, either can end the employment when they wish. These contracts can give employers an advantage when it comes to firings.

Not every worker is an at-will employee, however. Workers who belong to union collective agreements and public employees who are employed through civil service regulations can have different kinds of contracts. Not all employment contracts and agreements are written. Some contracts are verbal and others are implied. An implied contract is when the employer and employee are both aware that the worker cannot be fired without cause; but this can be difficult to prove in court and some states do not follow this.

What if My Contract was Breached?

Written contracts are easier to enforce because there is physical evidence. When a prospective employer tells an applicant that they can keep their job as long as they get 10 new clients a year, but fires them after 12 new clients are landed, the employee may have no options without proof. To prove a breach of faith, the employee needs to show that they were treated unfairly by the employer. Sometimes, an employee can show that they were forced into quitting because of mistreatment. For example, a company who places a worker on a very undesirable or unsafe assignment could end up facing a wrongful termination case.

Additionally, employees can be wrongfully terminated by companies who do not want to increase their wages. Other times, employees are misled and told that they will receive salary increases or promotions that never materialize. These may be seen as good faith and fair dealing breaches by some courts.

What are the Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Suit?

An employee can also file a wrongful termination suit using a public policy violation defense. This can come into play if a worker is fired for reasons that are against the law, such as when an employee exercises their legal right to attend jury duty or vote and gets fired. Also, it could apply when someone is fired for refusing to partake in illegal company activities, like laundering money.

Whistleblowing might also be seen as a public policy case since it can involve reporting safety threats and fraud. This should always be handled with great caution since the allegations can be serious. Retaliation against whistleblowers, or workers who voice complaints of discrimination, harassment, or company polices, is another concern. Although at-will employees may be fired for any reason, unlawful retaliation can be classified as wrongful termination.

It is also not unheard of for an employee to be fired for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim. A company might try to fire an injured employee before the compensation is awarded to prevent the worker from receiving benefits. They can do so in order to limit or end the benefits. These can also be seen as a form of employer retaliation.

Defamation can be another aspect of a wrongful termination if the former company made false or malicious statements about the employee. If the employee can prove that the statements were shared with at least one other person and that the worker was harmed in some way, there could be grounds for a case. The defamation could occur before or after the hiring and could ruin the employee’s reputation and affect their chances of obtaining another job.

How Do I Prepare a Wrongful Termination Case?

To prove wrongful termination, a plaintiff must show that a law was broken. A statute of limitation will also apply, depending on where the case is filed, so time is extremely important. An employee may file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before filing a suit, but this can become complex, so contacting a respected lawyer may be warranted.

The proof-gathering stage is key to substantiating a wrongful termination claim. If the manager claims that the employee was terminated because the company is not doing well, there may be evidence to the contrary. It also helps if the employee has evidence of positive performance reviews, salary increases, and the original employment contract.

If the employee was terminated because of their protected category, such as a disability or their age, it must be shown that the employer was aware of this. For instance, an employer could claim that they did not know that the employee had a hearing problem and fired them for not completing work on time. If an employee was harassed, they will want to gather up any abusive communications, photographs, and witness statements. These forms of evidence can show that the employee was targeted. A lawyer can help their client collect necessary evidence.

Philadelphia Wrongful Termination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Help Workers After Unjust Firings

Companies can fire employees for legitimate reasons, but they are not allowed to break the law. An experienced Philadelphia wrongful termination lawyer at The Gold Law Firm P.C. will determine if your firing was unwarranted. We will build a strong case and protect your rights. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-1999. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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