Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy Explained

Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy

Wrongful termination is a difficult legal situation. It is often hard to prove and requires quite a bit of legal work to put together a viable case. However, if you experience wrongful termination, it is essential that you hold your employer accountable.

A wrongful termination in violation of public policy situation is perhaps one of the easier ways to prove wrongful termination because it is quite specific. Your employer will have a difficult time justifying your termination when you can show the motive behind it was illegal.

This concept is a bit confusing sometimes, so understanding it and working with a knowledgeable attorney who has experience in employment law can make it easier for you to get a favorable outcome in your case.

What Is Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy?

Wrongful termination in violation of public policy occurs when your employer fires you for a reason that is not moral or ethical. It violates the social construct because it is in response to you exercising a right or doing something that the public views as a right.

Public policy represents things society values or holds important. Some examples include voting, reporting illegal activity and serving jury duty. It also encompasses things that you may do that are in the best interest of the public, such as reporting an employer for dumping toxic waste in a water source.

You can generally boil it down to your employer firing you for:

  • Reporting something illegal
  • Refusing to do something illegal
  • Exercising a right

Your employer will probably be aware that firing you is not legal. However, your employer may try to set you up so that it looks as if the firing is justifiable. For example, you may notice an increase in disciplinary action, or your employer may start complaining about the quality of your work. This is an attempt to establish a legal basis for your termination. However, in court, it is often easy to show that these actions began after you exercised your rights and they were a direct retaliation for doing so.

What Are Some Examples?

To make it a little clearer, it can help to see some specific examples of what might fall into this category. One of the most common reasons for wrongful termination in violation of public policy is an employer firing a whistleblower.

A whistleblower is someone who reports illegal activities of an employer. Federal law provides whistleblowers with protection from retaliation, which includes termination. So, if you report your employer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a safety violation and your employer fires you for making that report, then this is a good example of wrongful termination.

Another example is if your employer asks you to lie on the company income statements, and when you refuse, your employer fires you.

Trying to set up a union is a right you have under the law. It is also something that society supports and sees as a right. Not only is it a violation of public policy but also a violation of the law for your employer to fire you because you want to organize a union.

How Does At-Will Employment Affect Claims?

When talking about wrongful termination, you may hear people mention at-will employment. Most areas follow an at-will employment system. What this means is that you and your employer both have the right to end your employment at any time without any explanation.

Some people mistakenly think that at-will means your employer can fire you without a reason or for any reason. This is not true. What it means is that your employer does not have to give you a reason, but the reason must be something your employer can prove is valid and legal.

So, at-will employment does not affect wrongful termination because wrongful termination is when your employer fires you for a reason that is not legal. It is an exception to the at-will employment laws that offer you protection.

If your employer makes an at-will defense, it will still have to show the reasoning behind firing you was sound and not related to something for which you have protection under the law. Wrongful termination provides a standard that holds employers accountable and prevents them from firing people for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

What Can I Do About It?

Since wrongful termination of any type is often a violation of a law or protection you have, your case will first need to go through a government agency. For example, if your employer fires you for making a report to OSHA, then OSHA will generally conduct an investigation first.

When the government investigation concludes, you may have the ability to take your case to court. You should speak with an attorney who has experience in this area of law to determine if you have a case and can move forward with it. You do not want to do anything that could jeopardize the government’s investigation.

If you take your case to court, you have the right to certain remedies:

  • Restoration of your position with the company
  • Payment for lost wages
  • Accommodations for lost benefits
  • Payment of attorney fees and other legal costs
  • Damages for emotional distress

You should note that every state has a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful termination case in the court, which is a time limit during which you must file. It is essential that you contact a lawyer right away to secure representation and ensure that he or she files your case before the statute of limitations expires. Once it does, you have no legal remedies available, and the court will throw your case out.

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

It is important that as soon as you realize you may have a wrongful termination case that you seek legal assistance. You do not want to miss the statute of limitations or potentially harm your case by waiting to secure an attorney. Submit a request online or call us today at 866-345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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