Types of cases:
• Employer Retaliation
• Breach of Contract
Employment Law: Wrongful Termination
Wrongful termination, wrongful dismissal or wrongful discharge are general terms for unfair firings that can provoke lawsuits. There is no federal law against wrongful termination in the U.S.; most states consider employees “at will”, meaning either an employee or an employer can end their relationship at any time, for any reason. But employees are still protected under anti-discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Act; laws that prohibit retaliation for “blowing the whistle” on an employer’s illegal practices; and any contract law that governs their employment. Many courts have also found exceptions to at-will employment, such as an implied verbal contract or the right to participate in politics. Employees who win a wrongful termination suit may get their jobs back, collect monetary damages, or both.
Employment Contracts Are Agreements Designed to Be Legally Binding
Most employment relationships are “at-will,” meaning that either the employer or the employee may terminate the relationship at any time with or without reason, and without prior notice. However, in some cases, an employee may have been hired pursuant to an employment contract, either expressly or implied. These employees are not considered “at will”. Employment contracts are agreements that both parties are obligated to uphold.
The details of the individual employment contract are important in determining if an employee was terminated in violation of the employment agreement/contract. This requires a legal review of all of the clauses and an understanding of the circumstances of the termination. The first part of this review is to determine whether an employment contract exists. This is not always easy to determine. There are significant differences between “at-will” employees and those employed under a contract. If an employee has signed a written acknowledgement that they are employed “at-will” and that nothing provided or told to them is a contract then they are “at-will” employees.
If, however, an employee has an employment contract — whether written or oral, express or implied — that contract may limit the employer’s ability to terminate the employee. In addition, the employer must treat the employee fairly and may only fire the employee for “good cause.”
Employment contracts take a variety of forms. A written document labeled “employment contract”, usually signed by both parties, is called an express written contract and is the easiest form. However, employers sometimes create employment contracts without intending to and this type of contract, called an implied contract, binds employers as much as a written contract. An implied contract is difficult to establish if an employee has only been in the job for a year or less
Employers create implied contracts when a promise is made to an employee, often job security. These promises can take the form of a casual conversation with an employee or as part of a discussion in an employee handbook. Determining whether an employer has created an implied contract requires considerable investigation.
Some examples of an implied contract include:
Their prospective employer promises a prospective employee that they will only be fired for job performance.
An employee manual states that once employees have completed an initial 90-day probation period, they become “permanent” employees.
A supervisor gives an employee an excellent review in a performance appraisal and states the employee will have a long future at the company as long as the good performance continues.
Regardless of what type of contract an employer has with an employee, that contract will obligate an employer to treat an employee fairly. This obligation is called the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In addition, if there is an express written contract with an employee, the contract usually state the reasons for which the employee can be fired and the employer must follow these conditions. Contracts often state that an employee can only be terminated for good cause; however, some contracts are more detailed.