Employee Rights in Wrongful Termination

By Taunda Edwards

An employee who feels she has been wrongfully terminated or laid off from her job has the right to file a wrongful-termination claim against her employer. Employees who win the wrongful-termination suit are eligible to receive money damages, severance packages or other benefits. The employee has the right to request a copy of her personnel work file to find out the reason she was terminated and inquire who made the decision to fire her.

Discrimination

Under equal opportunity employment laws, an employer cannot fire an employee on grounds of discrimination. Terminating an employee because of race, national origin, gender, age, disability, religious beliefs and other personal characteristics is considered discrimination. This is illegal, and a wrongful-termination claim can be filed by the employee.

Sexual Harassment

An employee who is fired because he refused to perform sexual acts with an employer, a member of upper management, a client or another employee can file a wrongful-termination suit. An employee does not have to do any unreasonable job outside of his job description, and sexual harassment is prohibited by all employers. An employee who files a sexual harassment claim against an employer, client or other employee cannot be terminated because he filed the claim.

Breach of Contract

Those employees who provide contract work cannot be wrongfully terminated. A contract employee signs a contract with her employer to do a job. The contract details the job requirement, the dates the contract is effective and the amounts the contractor shall be paid. If an employer terminates the contract without justifiable cause, this is considered a breach of contract, as well as wrong termination. It is illegal, and a contractor can sue the employee for any wages and damages.

Violation of Public Policy

At-will employees do not have a contract with an employer; therefore, employment may be terminated at any time. However, there are some rights at-will employees have when it comes to wrongful termination. Violation of public policy to an employee at will is not prohibited. Courts look at the public policy of the federal government and states to determine whether the termination of the employee at will violates the interests of the general public. An example would be an employer firing an employee for filing a workers' compensation claim; this action would undermine the public policy behind workers' compensation.

Severance Packages

Employees who are terminated have the right to receive a severance package if their company contract requires it. However, an employee who is wrongfully terminated has the right to negotiate a severance package in exchange for dropping any legal suits or claims against the employer. A severance package can include not only wage payment to the ex-employee but also health and dental insurance and other benefits coverage. The terms of the severance package vary from case to case.

About the Author

Taunda Edwards began writing in 1997 and received her bachelor's degree in secondary education from Miami University of Ohio in 2004. In 2005 she pursued her writing career on a full-time basis. Her first novel was published by T.A.D.D. Writes publications. She was a 2006 "Moviemaker Magazine" feature.