While most employees who are fired may feel that their termination was wrongful, employment law is very specific about what constitutes wrongful termination. To avoid a wrongful termination claim, employers must be aware of what kind of dismissal may be considered illegal, including the following:

If an employee has a written contract. All states recognize “at-will” employment, which means that employees may be terminated without cause. However, there are certain limitations on at-will employment. If an employee has a written contract, this does not fall under the at-will classification.

If an employee has an implied contract. If an employee believes that a contract exists because of something an employer said or implied, this may invalidate the at-will status of the employee.

If an employee has been treated unfairly. A claim for breach of good faith may be made if an employer is found to have subjected an employee to unfair treatment.

If an employee has been subjected to discrimination. There are state and federal laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability or pregnancy. In addition, some states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, and more.

If an employee has been subjected to retaliation. It is illegal to retaliate against any employee if they have filed a legal complaint against an employer or reported an employer’s wrongdoing to authorities.

If an employee is a whistleblower. Employees who report illegal activities by an employer that could cause public harm are protected by state and federal laws that shield whistleblowers from being fired for those activities.

If an employee can claim defamation. If an employer makes disparaging remarks about an employee that damages his or her reputation, that employee could have grounds for a defamation suit.

If an employee is a victim of fraud. If an employee has proof that an employer deliberately acted in a deceptive manner, there may be grounds for a fraud claim.

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