By Nick Branch
Special to CareerBuilder
December 11, 2012
Being dismissed unfairly can be a traumatic experience, not to mention financially damaging. It is well known that most people employed in the U.S. are subject to “dismissal at will.” However, this doesn’t mean that your employer has unrestricted freedom to fire you. In some circumstances, an employer may act unlawfully in dismissing someone. This is called “wrongful dismissal;” also known as “wrongful termination” or “wrongful discharge.”
Just being dismissed unfairly isn’t enough to claim wrongful dismissal. You must have been fired for a reason specifically deemed unlawful. Situations that may constitute wrongful dismissal vary between states, but here’s an overview:
What you can do
If you have been wrongfully dismissed, you can pursue a legal claim against your employer. In some states, this needs to be done directly against the employer as a civil lawsuit, whereas in others you need to file a claim through the government agency responsible for labor laws. If you have been wrongfully dismissed due to discrimination, it’s normally necessary to make an initial complaint to the government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If your employer is found to have wrongfully dismissed you, the solutions depend on the state in question. In some cases, it might be a set penalty, and in others the company might be required to reinstate you or pay damages for your lost wages and expenses. In some circumstances, the employer might have to pay additional punitive damages.
Labor law varies significantly from state to state. In addition to finding out whether you have actually been wrongfully dismissed, it’s important to consider the chance of making a successful claim, as wrongful dismissal can be hard to prove. You can find information about each state’s labor laws via the Department of Labor and your state’s labor department; however, you may want to consult an employment lawyer about unfair dismissal in the state of question.
Nick Branch is a contributing writer for Contact Law