In many jobs, employment is at will, which means the employer can fire an employee without having a just reason or giving any type of warning. However, an employer may not terminate an employee due to one of the many federally protected activities.
If you feel your employer fired you and violated a law as a result, you will need to prove a wrongful termination claim.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that an employer cannot retaliate against, or terminate, an employee who engages in activities protected by the law. These activities fall under two main categories: Reporting unlawful behavior and participating in an investigation of their employer. Examples include:
- Reporting suspected harassment or discrimination in the workplace
- Asking about salary information to discover discriminatory wages
- Resisting sexual advances
- Requesting a disability accommodation
- Testifying regarding a complaint against the employer
- Reporting unsafe work hazards
Steps necessary for a wrongful termination claim
If an employer fires an employee for participating in any of the listed activities, the worker can file a claim for wrongful termination. According to FindLaw, there are three things that the employee needs to prove.
One is to state or show proof that the employee was engaging in a protected activity. This may include email correspondence or a witness statement. The second step is to show that there was a punishment, which, in this case, would be the firing. The third step is to prove that the employer terminated employment as a direct result of the employee’s action.
It can be challenging to prove wrongful termination, especially if the employer claims there were valid reasons for the termination. Gathering as much direct and circumstantial evidence as possible will help the employee’s case.