Being fired can be an incredibly upsetting experience. Suddenly you can find yourself struggling to support your family and without critical benefits. Considering how devastating termination decisions can be, it is crucial that they comply with the law.
Those decisions that do not comply can be grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
It might make sense to assume that “wrongful” means unfair or unwarranted. However, in the eyes of the law, a termination must meet specific criteria to be considered unlawful. If you are questioning whether your termination was wrongful, here are three things to consider:
Your employment status
If you have an employment contract that guarantees employment until a certain date, and if you are terminated early, your termination may be wrongful. Most workers, however, don’t have an employment contract. Most employees are “at-will,” which means they can quit or be fired at any time and for any reason, so long as that reason is not discriminatory or retaliatory.
Your association with a protected class
The law prohibits discriminatory firing based on an employee’s membership in a protected class. Protected classes are groups of people with a shared characteristic. If an employer fired you based on your race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, status with regard to public assistance, membership or activity in a local commission, disability, or age (current MN list), the firing could be wrongful.
Your engagement in protected activity
Employees also have the right to report unsafe conditions, workplace harassment, and discrimination. Many also have the right to take job-protected leave (e.g., FMLA) and to seek workers’ compensation benefits if they get hurt on the job. If you were fired after engaging in any of these protected activities, it could be considered retaliation, which is prohibited.
What can you do if you believe your termination was wrongful?
If you have reason to believe that your employer wrongfully terminated you, you can pursue your claim through the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (state claims), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (federal claims), and/or state or federal district court. If your claim is successful, you may receive compensation for damages suffered as a result of the wrongful termination.
In order to understand your legal options, consult with an experienced employment law attorney to discuss the specifics of your claim.