When people are fired, forced to resign or laid off, especially after many years of loyalty and committed service to a company that has been the focal point of their careers and financial wellbeing, the shock can lead to an immediate desire for retaliation in the form of a wrongful termination suit. But problems can pop up when a worker wants to immediately seek compensation before researching whether or not a lawsuit has a chance in court.
Many employment terminations may feel unfair, but not all are unlawful. No matter how talented, loyal or productive a laid-off worker is, for a legal remedy to be successful, the termination must be “illegal” in the eyes of the law. Here are a few misconceptions about what constitutes a wrongful termination.
Not all job termination is wrongful
Many people do not realize that all states in the U.S. are “at-will”, meaning the employer can fire a worker at any time for any reason as long as there is not a cause for termination clause in the contract. However, there are exceptions by state, such as where a public policy doctrine is violated or where there is implied contract, both of which apply in Iowa.
Anti-discrimination laws do not apply only to minorities and women
Federal laws against discrimination based on gender, race, natural origin, religion, medical history, and marital or citizenship status apply to all citizens in a wrongful termination suit if discrimination can be proved for any of the above reasons. Even age discrimination can be a legitimate cause under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, although there are limitations to this based on certain guidelines.
Some speech is protected
Being fired for speaking out about illegal activity or wrongdoing in the workplace is illegal under federal and some state whistleblower laws, including in Iowa. However, speaking out about political views at work, or even attending political rallies, may not part of legally protected speech for workers.
When to pursue a wrongful termination suit
It is important to know the difference between what is unjust and what is illegal if a worker is fired or laid off. Knowing when and if pursuing a wrongful termination suit is appropriate depends on many factors. Many people, for example, do not realize that an employee can even sue his employer after he quits if he can prove that he was coerced or pressured to resign. Understanding what might be possible in seeking compensation for an unjust termination is a great first step toward towards holding an employer accountable.