I receive a lot of calls from potential clients who believe they have been wrongfully terminated from their jobs. In each case, the termination sounds unfair. The employer fires the person for no reason (cause) or fires them based on incorrect facts. A firing may be factually wrong, morally wrong, and/or legally wrong. In Connecticut, we have to decide whether the firing is legally wrong. Has some law or public policy been violated?
We start by looking at the employment agreement. Is there an enforceable contract? Most people have terms spelled out, such as wages, benefits, PTO, etc. The key term is a specified period of time. Does your agreement state that you will work for a year or more? If you have a Union contract, your contract will usually be for a two to four year period of time. If you have a term of years, you then come under a just cause standard. This means the employer must have a good reason to let you go. This usually comes with procedures that must be followed, such as warnings or suspension before termination.
The other 90% of people are employees at-will. This means that the employer is free to let you go for any reason or no reason at all. There is no just cause needed. The good news is that there are exceptions to employment at-will. An employer cannot discriminate against you. Discrimination is based on your inclusion in a protected class, i.e., age, race, disability, national origin, sex, religion and others. These are classes of people who have been traditionally been discriminated against and there are laws (statutes) to protect them.
Other statutes like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), OSHA, Workers’ Compensation, or Wage and Hour laws can provide the basis for a wrongful termination. There is also the public policy exception to employment at-will, which is a whole other topic.
In summary, unless you have a contract for a specified amount of time, or the employer has violated a state or federal statute, the employer is free to terminate your employment without a good reason.
If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, call us for a free telephone consultation.