How Do I Know If I’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated?
The following information from a Barrett & Farahany wrongful discharge lawyer Atlanta GA can help you begin to analyze whether you may have a legal claim against your employer for wrongful termination. Although “wrongful termination” is a term that’s widely used in the public these days, many terminations are not “wrongful” from a legal standpoint.
My termination wasn’t fair, isn’t that illegal?
Generally speaking, unfair termination is not necessarily illegal termination. The following situations are some examples where termination was probably unfair but wasn’t necessarily illegal, without more:
- You were fired despite good performance
- You were fired for performance but never received proper training
- You were fired out of the blue with no indication as to why
- You were fired because of a conflict with another employee
- You were fired because your boss or coworkers don’t like you
- You were fired because you reported your boss or coworker
Without more, none of these circumstances are likely to implicate your employer as having done something illegal by firing you. If there is more to your story, you should consult with a Barrett & Farahany wrongful discharge lawyer Atlanta GA and let us help you determine if your employer has violated your rights.
I lost my job when the new boss came onboard – is that illegal?
Termination by a new boss may or may not be illegal. For example, a new person in charge may prefer to staff the organization with employees who are hand-selected by them, which is not necessarily impermissible. However, if there has been any indication that the new boss is biased against you because of a protected characteristic, your termination may have been illegal. Has there been any mention of race? Religion? National origin? Gender? Pregnancy? Age? Disability? Although simply being a member of a protected class is usually not sufficient to show bad animus on the part of your employer, any mention of any of these characteristics in an unfavorable light could be good evidence of an illegal animus.
They won’t tell me why I was fired, don’t they have to?
Like many states, Georgia is an “at-will” employment state, which means you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all (with the exception of protected reasons like some of the ones listed above). There is no law in Georgia that compels your employer to tell you why you were terminated. If your employer contests your unemployment benefits, however, the employer will have to tell the Department of Labor why you were terminated. Employers will often make up a reason where one is not readily available. Lying to the Department of Labor about the reasons you were terminated is unethical, but it is not necessarily illegal (remember, at-will truly means any reason or no reason, so the employer doesn’t have to give the DOL a good reason or even a true reason!). One thing to note: if your employer is contesting your unemployment benefits but doesn’t have a good reason for firing you, a Barrett & Farahany wrongful discharge lawyer Atlanta GA may still be able to help by pointing you to an attorney who can assist with your appeal of the DOL’s decision.
There were some issues with coworkers, but I didn’t do anything wrong!
Unless your conflicts at work arose because you were targeted for a protected characteristic (like race, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, or pregnancy, for example) or were exercising a legal right (like questioning your employer about overtime you are owed, requesting an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, for example), your employer may have had every right to fire you. Employers are there to make money, so there is usually little tolerance for dealing with employees who cannot get along. Additionally, general workplace bullying that does not cross legal lines is not illegal, so it’s up to the employer to put a stop to it or not. In fact, where the employer allows general bullying in the workplace, the employee who is being bullied may be the most likely target of termination. Though your employer does have an obligation to keep you safe at work, they can solve the conflict and meet their obligation by firing one or both employees who aren’t getting along. Being terminated solely because someone doesn’t like you is usually not illegal, but if you think a protected characteristic or right is at issue, a Barrett & Farahany wrongful discharge lawyer Atlanta GA can go over the facts of your case with you and advise you further.
But I was fired for reporting to HR, aren’t they there to help me?
Not all retaliation is illegal, so if the conflict and your complaints to HR or management don’t involve protected issues, complaining may legally result in your termination. Many employees believe that HR is there to help them solve any and all problems with coworkers, but that’s not necessarily the case. More often, the role of HR personnel is risk management for the employer, not help or counseling for employees in conflict. On the other hand, if a protected characteristic or right is the basis for your complaint, your subsequent termination may be a form of retaliation that is illegal and could be actionable depending on the facts and circumstances.
If you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated, please contact a Barrett & Farahany wrongful discharge lawyer Atlanta GA to discuss your case and help you determine if you have any legal recourse.