August 21, 2019

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Wrongful Termination

Also known as wrongful discharge, wrongful termination occurs when your employer discharges you for an improper reason that is actionable. If you believe you have been wrongfully discharged, you should seek the advice of an Employment or Wrongful Termination Attorney to ensure you protect your rights. View qualified Employment Law Firms in your area to find Wrongful Discharge Lawyers.

At-Will Employment

Most jobs in the U.S. are at-will, meaning you can be fired at any time for any reason. There are exceptions, including:

  • Contract of employment
  • Discrimination
  • Retaliation
  • Public policy

Employment Contract

A contract may be express (the terms are stated, and usually written down) or implied (by the conduct of the parties). An employment agreement will have the reasons for termination included, so your employer cannot fire you for something not included in the contract.

Even without a document, if your employer has a policy or handbook, it may serve as an implied contract under which you can only be terminated for certain reasons.


There are several common reasons people are discriminated against, including

  • Race
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Disability

If you are claiming discrimination as the basis of your firing, you will file your claim with an equal employment agency, most likely, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Typically, your claim must be made within a very short period of time. After the agency has dealt with the complaint, you would then pursue your remedies in court.


Sometimes, people are fired for asserting their rights, or reporting a violation. Retaliatory discharge may be actionable, and commonly occurs with:

  • Whistleblowers – those who report violations of certain laws, such as reporting securities fraud or civil rights violations.
  • Claim makers – those who make their own claims for violations, such as employment discrimination, may not be fired for it.

This claim may also have to originate in an agency, so an Employment Lawyer should be contacted immediately to determine the proper action.

Public Policy

Some firings are not included in the other exceptions, but are just so wrong that the courts have found that they are actionable. Examples include:

  • Claim makers – if a person makes a claim for benefits, such as a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Witnesses – if an employee is asked by a colleague to testify in his suit against an employer or a related entity.

The rationale behind this exception is that our society has determined that these are worthy and necessary acts. If employers were allowed to fire people for making them, fewer employees would do so and our society would suffer.

Constructive Discharge

Sometimes, employers want an employee to leave but have no legitimate grounds. These employers may make that employee’s work-life so unbearable, the employee quits. Examples of actions that may make the employee’s resignation actionable include:

  • Harassment
  • Changing the job, its terms or location with little or no warning
  • Undeserved discipline
  • Withholding wages
  • Undeserved demotion

Related areas:

Employment Discrimination, Contracts, Workers’ Compensation, Employment Law, Civil Rights Law, Disability, Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, Race Discrimination Attorneys