People are terminated from their jobs every day. However, some of these terminations violate existing laws. Wrongful discharge, or wrongful termination, occurs when an employer fires someone from a job in a way that violates the law. Because different states have different employment laws, what constitutes wrongful termination in one state may not be wrongful termination in another state.
However, specific federal laws apply to every state, regardless of the laws that the states pass. It is illegal in all 50 states for an employer to fire someone based on race, gender, nation of origin, disability, religion or age. Also, a person cannot be fired for being pregnant or due to veteran status. These are protected classes under federal law, and firing someone for any of these is a violation of one of several anti-discrimination laws.
There are also other cases when termination is illegal, including the following:
- Termination for reporting OSHA violations.
- Termination for violating public policy.
- Termination for being a legal alien in the U.S.
- Termination for refusing to take a lie detector test.
- Termination for an employee asserting their rights under federal law.
If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, either due to state or federal law, then you can take steps. The U.S. Department of Labor handles the investigative process that looks into wrongful termination claims.
Educating Yourself About Termination
The first step to take when you feel that you’ve been wrongfully terminated is to educate yourself about the law. The Department of Labor’s website maintains materials that you can use to educate yourself about whether your termination was wrongful.
If you’re still not sure if you were wrongfully terminated, contact the Wage and Hour Office at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243), TTY: 1-877-889-5627. The service is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
Information You Need
Before the investigative process begins, you need to provide the Department of Labor with specific information regarding your case. Before starting the process of filing your complaint, collect the following information:
- Your full name.
- Your contact information, including address and phone number.
- The name of the company you were fired from.
- The location and phone number of the company.
- The manager or owner to contact about the incident.
- The type of work that you performed.
- Details about how and when you were paid.
- Information including pay stubs, records of hours worked, and other relevant.
After you call the Department of Labor, you will be referred to the nearest Wage and Hour Division office. You provide them with your information to initiate the investigation process.
Termination Investigation Process
After calling the Department of Labor and providing the needed information, the investigation process occurs over the course of several main steps. Investigators examine the laws that the employer may have violated.
This initial step of the investigation involves reviewing employer records, including an examination of the employer’s business transactions and contracts.
The next step of the investigation involves an examination of the company’s payroll and time records. This provides objective data that the government can use when making its case that an employer has violated the law.
After having reviewed these records, the government proceeds to conduct private interviews with other employees. The government attempts to confirm that the information from the company’s records and the information provided during interviews are consistent.
After the government completes its fact-finding investigation, it requests a meeting with the employer or a representative from the firm. During this meeting, the investigator issues corrective actions that the company must take if the investigation found that a violation occurred. Corrective actions can include reinstatement and payment of back wages and overtime to the employee who was terminated.