When Should I File a Wrongful Termination Claim?
Several different laws apply to cases of wrongful termination. Your lawyer will help you understand the laws your employer has violated and what that means in terms of your legal options. Depending on the law, jurisdiction, and incident, you may need to file a claim with a government agency for a remedy.
For a case of discrimination, for instance, if your employer fired you based on your gender, race, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information, you must go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can file a claim to request the EEOC investigate the incident and attempt to remedy it.
When Should I File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
In the case of discrimination, the EEOC requires you to file first but then may provide you with a Notice of Right to Sue. This allows you to begin a lawsuit against your employer to recover damages. Outside of discriminatory firings, you may want to file a lawsuit in these situations:
- You had a written contract, and your employer fired you without a good reason.
- You believe you had a verbal contract with your employer but lost your job without a good reason.
- Your employer did not follow the company’s policies in terminating you.
- Your employer created a hostile work environment or made changes to your employment status to force you into quitting.
- You lost your job in retaliation for reporting illicit activities by your employer or refusing to engage in illegal acts.
- You lost your job after taking time off for jury duty or military or National Guard service.
- Your employer fired you after filing a claim for workers’ compensation.
Some state laws have additional protections for workers to prevent wrongful termination. If you are unsure if your situation qualifies under any of these laws, talk to a local employment lawyer.
Can I Get My Job Back in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
In cases of wrongful termination, getting your job back is not a typical remedy. You can negotiate for your position or get it back as part of a jury verdict in a lawsuit. Most people find the environment will be too hostile to return and prefer to seek only monetary damages.
What Can I Recover in Damages?
If you can file a lawsuit over wrongful termination, you may be able to collect damages. Your employer cost you money and owes you compensation. You could get compensation through a settlement negotiated by your lawyer. Or, if you end up going to trial, a jury could award you appropriate damages. Damages amounts are based on:
- The pay you lost as a result of being fired
- The value of lost benefits, such as medical insurance, pension plans, or stock options
- Your emotional pain and suffering caused by the situation
- Legal fees resulting from the case
- Punitive damages if your employer’s actions were especially egregious
Cases of wrongful termination based on discrimination must go through the EEOC. If the EEOC allows you to sue your employer, damages are limited based on the size of the company. This includes both compensatory and punitive damages.
How to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
You will need an experienced wrongful termination to take you through this process. They know what steps to take, the time limits, how to maximize damages, and how to give you the best chance of a good outcome.
The steps in a wrongful termination lawsuit may vary depending on your situation and the laws that apply:
- File a claim.
You may need to file a claim with a government agency before doing anything else. If your EEOC Right to Sue Notice is denied, there are avenues to appeal. Your lawyer can help you get the right to file a lawsuit against your employer.
- File a complaint.
When allowed to sue, your lawyer will begin by filing a complaint to notify your employer and any other defendants. The complaint outlines your allegations and begins the discovery period.
With the defendants notified, both sides can gather evidence and build a case to prove or disprove the termination was wrongful. Your lawyer may also hold depositions to talk to witnesses and share information with the other side.
If it looks like you have a strong case, your employer will probably agree to negotiate a settlement. This is where your lawyer tries to get adequate compensation, or possibly your reinstatement in your job.
If you cannot agree on a settlement, you can take your employer to court. The jury will decide if the termination was illegal and what damages your employer owes you if it is.
How Will I Prove Wrongful Termination?
You need to work with a lawyer experienced in these cases. They know what information and evidence you need to make your case and prove you should not have been fired. Documentation is important in these cases. Some of the documents that will help prove your case include:
- Performance reviews
- Emails, memos, and texts
- Personnel file
- Employee and company policy handbook
- Contracts and hiring agreements
Your lawyer will also use circumstantial evidence. For instance, if you believe you were fired based on being a woman. The fact that your employer replaced you with a man with fewer qualifications supports your case but is not direct proof.
What is the Time Limit on Filing a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations on filing a wrongful termination lawsuit depends on the applicable laws and jurisdiction. If following state laws, the state determines how long you have to file, typically one to six years.
For cases of discriminatory termination, you have 180 days to file a claim with the EEOC. This is extended to 300 days in some situations and depending on state laws. If the EEOC grants you a Notice of Right to Sue, you then have just 60 days to start a lawsuit against your employer.
A wrongful termination lawsuit may be the best way for you to remedy a bad situation that has left you without a job. You may be able to recover damages as you search for a new position. Contact a wrongful termination lawyer to help you with your case.