By: Derek Demeri
On: May 31, 2023
What is Illegal Termination?
Illegal termination occurs when a company fires an employee for any number of illegal reasons. Illegal termination is an important employment law that can be breached at the federal, state, or local levels. In an at-will state, an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, with the exception of illegal reasons. Under the at-will rule, employees are also able to leave their job without legal ramifications as well. The at-will rule enables employers to alter terms of employment, such as wages and benefits, without notice or cause.
However, employers can be held liable for illegal termination and face legal consequences. The employee may be eligible for compensation such as reimbursement of back pay, monetary compensation, reinstatement, or another form of relief.
Situations That Qualify As Illegal Termination
There are several reasons that make a termination illegal.
- Illegal Termination: Discrimination
Employers are prohibited through state and federal employment law to illegally terminate an employee, or make any employment decision, based on the employee’s race, color, religion, nationality, age, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. Illegal termination based on discrimination is apparent in the following instances:
- An employee is terminated because he failed to complete a job function due to a physical handicap.
- An employee is terminated based on turning a certain age.
- An employee is segregated due to racial stereotyping, thus creating a hostile work environment.
- Illegal Termination: Retaliation
An employer can commit an act of illegal termination if they fire or threaten to fire an employee for filing a complaint against the employer. This protects workers from retaliation for partaking in a legal activity that is deemed necessary, proper, or desirable. Cases of illegal termination as a result of retaliation include:
- Engagement in union activity
- Opposition to discriminatory practices
- Filing workers’ compensation
- Claiming overtime or minimal wage compensation
- Testifying on behalf of another employee
- Filing sexual harassment complaint
- Illegal Termination: Whistleblowers
Whistleblowing occurs when an employee reports unlawful conduct at work that is unrelated to the rights in the workplace, and is considered another form of illegal termination. Whistleblowing statutes vary from state to state, but some commonly accepted cases of whistleblowing are:
- Engaging in fraud
- Producing faulty or dangerous products
- Tax evasion
- Manipulating financial records
- Reporting illegal activity such as harassment
- Reporting safety violations
- Illegal Termination: FMLA
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects employees from illegal termination for taking a valid medical, personal, or family leave of absence from work. Eligible employees for FMLA must have worked at their job for a minimum of one year and 1250 hours to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Reasons for a FMLA leave include:
- Birth and care of a newborn child
- Care for family members with a serious medical condition or injury
- Care of a foster or adopted child
- Care of a member of armed forces who is receiving medical care for illness or injury
- Medical condition that is preventing employee from completing job duties
In the private sector, employers must have 50 or more employees for a minimum of 20 weeks to be covered by FMLA.
- Illegal Termination: Other cases
Illegal termination can also present itself in a number of forms aside from the likes of discrimination and retaliation. While sexual harassment and political beliefs can lead to illegal termination, they both can be classified under cases of retaliation. Fraudulent concealment, however, is another means of an employer committing an act of illegal termination. Fraudulent concealment commonly occurs when the employer intentionally misinforms or misleads their employees of their job descriptions and responsibilities. An example is when an employer withholds job information, so the potential employee will not decline the position. For instance, an employer may neglect to inform the future employee that the position which they are being hired for is short-term, thus illegally withholding or concealing information from the employee.
How Do You Respond To An Illegal Termination?
Illegal termination can be a traumatic event. Your employer or former employer will most likely have their own attorneys and resources at their defense. It is critical for you to retain an experienced wrongful termination attorney like the team at Zeff Law Firm to help you navigate through this difficult time.
If you believe you have been illegally terminated, your response can have a significant impact on the outcome of this unfortunate situation. The following steps are vital to building your successful illegal termination case:
- Refrain from retaliation such as social media commentary.
- Understand what is illegal about your firing and the reasoning for it.
- Gather and accumulate appropriate evidence.
- Secure the services of an experienced illegal termination attorney.
Consulting with the experienced team at Zeff Law Firm can assist you in building your successful wrongful termination case.
Contact Zeff Law Firm If You Were The Victim Of Illegal Termination
If you have been a victim of illegal termination, contact our employment law experts at Zeff Law Firm. Our team can assist you in navigating the complexities of your case to gain the compensation you deserve.