If you have recently lost your job in Alabama, you may be wondering if you have a wrongful termination case. Alabama is an “at will” state, which means that, in general, employers have the right to fire an employee at any time and for any reason. In fact, most employers require new employees to sign paperwork that states that their employment is “at will”.
Although employers usually have the right to terminate an employee at will, there are some exceptions to this rule. For one thing, the reason for termination must fall within the guidelines of federal employment laws. There are various federal laws that protect workers from unlawful dismissals based on being part of a protected class, and there are laws against retaliatory termination after an employee asserts their rights, reports misconduct, or participates in an investigation.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you may be able to file a legal claim against your ex-employer. These types of cases can be complicated, however, and there are specific procedures that must be followed in order to bring the claim to a successful conclusion. If you are considering this course of action, you will need strong legal counsel by your side advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.
For several years, attorney Kira Fonteneau has stood up for the working people of Alabama. Kira has dedicated her career to fighting against all types of civil rights violations, and she has established a successful track record with these types of cases. Kira has in-depth knowledge of federal and state employment and civil rights laws, and she puts her extensive experience to work to thoroughly examine the specifics of each case, and to explore every potential legal avenue toward obtaining full relief on behalf of her clients.
Wrongful Termination in the Alabama Workplace
Federal law prohibits most employers from terminating employees based on any of the following protected classes:
- Skin Color
- National Origin
- Age (as long as the employee is at least 40 years old)
An employer cannot terminate you for any of these reasons, and if it can be proven that they did so, they would be in violation of the law.
Here are some possible examples of wrongful termination based on discrimination:
- A manager or supervisor has demonstrated a bias against the particular race in which you are part of, and you are terminated for something that others of a different race have done and not lost their job for;
- You are over the age of 40, and you have been subject to disciplinary actions for things that employees who are younger than you have gotten away with doing, and you are eventually fired for it;
- You are terminated shortly after your employer learns that you are pregnant;
- You resigned your position due to proven sexual harassment or a hostile work environment;
- You were terminated for any other non-performance issue, and it can be shown that the underlying reason was because you are a part of one of the above-mentioned protected classes.
An employer is not allowed to fire an employee after the employee filed a claim for harassment or discrimination, or because an employee reported workplace misconduct, an unsafe work environment, or is participating in an investigation. These circumstances would all be considered “retaliation”. Alabama employers are also prohibited from terminating or taking other negative actions against employees who file a workers' compensation claim.
Closely related to retaliation is being terminated for reporting illegal activities to government authorities. Employers are prohibited from terminating an employee who reports violations of law to the government under the Whistleblower Protection Act. Employers are also not allowed to create a hostile work environment for employees who become government whistleblowers.
Termination for Taking Approved Time Off Work
Under both federal and state laws, employees have the right to take time off for certain civic duties and personal obligations. These include:
- Military Leave: Federal law allows employees to take up to five years of leave to serve in the military, and they have the right to be given their jobs back when they return. Alabama extends this law to cover employees who are called to active state duty for at least 30 days.
- Jury Duty: If you are a full-time employee, you are entitled to your normal pay while you are out for jury duty.
- Voting: Employees are allowed to take up to one hour of unpaid time off to vote, unless they already have at least two hours off after the polls open in the morning, or at least one hour off before the polls close in the evening.
- Family and Medical Leave: Alabama employees are covered by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, employers with at least 50 employees are required to provide their employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or adopted child, deal with a serious health concern, or care for a close family member with a serious health concern.
Termination for Breach of Contract
While most Alabama workers are “at will” employees, there are some employees who are not. For example, if you signed a written contract before you started working that states that your employment is for a set or indefinite period of time and that you could only be terminated for certain reasons (such as gross negligence or misconduct), being fired before the expiration of the contract for any other reason could constitute wrongful termination. A written contract may also exist as part of a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement, or it could be outlined in an employee handbook.
Even if the contract is not in writing, you still may have been wrongfully terminated if the employer had given you a verbal or implied promise of a certain length of employment. For example, maybe your employer told you when you were hired that your tenure would be indefinite as long as you performed up to certain standards. However, as you might guess, verbal and implied contracts are more difficult to prove than a contract that is in writing, so you will most likely need the testimony of some of your coworkers as well as other evidence to help corroborate your claim.
Contact an Experienced Alabama Wrongful Termination Attorney
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, you have legal rights and remedies that may be available to you. These could include back pay, forward pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal fees. To find out if you have a case, get in touch with attorney Kira Fonteneau. Call our office today at (404) 383-5720 or send us an online message to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.