The success rate for wrongful termination cases varies, and there is no fixed rate. In most cases, about 60% of wrongful termination cases are settled outside the courtroom. Around 30% of those who go to trial favor the plaintiff.
A number of issues will be critical in determining the outcome of a wrongful termination lawsuit, such as clear violation of labor laws, well-documented evidence and witnesses to support the claim. It is important to have an experienced employment attorney to assess your case’s strength and lead you through the legal process. Bear in mind that individual circumstances can greatly change the result; thus, you need to seek the kind of legal advice – and possible representation – that’s tailored to the unique circumstances of your case.
This article provides a detailed overview of wrongful termination and how the outcomes of such cases are based upon several factors. Some of the key questions we’ll address include:
- Examples of wrongful termination
- Key elements of a lawsuit for wrongful termination
- How to win a lawsuit against your employer
- How long do you have to sue for wrongful termination?
- What is a typical employment lawsuit settlement?
- …and much more.
For starters, let’s take a look at some common examples of wrongful termination. This will help you appreciate what really happens in a specific case.
Examples of Wrongful Termination
You could experience wrongful termination in several ways or scenarios. By familiarizing yourself with these instances, you’ll likely be in a position to identify and counter such cases and seek the legal help you need. Here are some common examples of wrongful termination:
Retaliation for Reporting Violations
One of the common forms of wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired because for reporting unlawful activity in their workplace. That’s because wrongful termination is normally associated with unlawful activities in the workplace, including but not limited to harassment, fraud, insider trading, product safety concerns, violation of ethical codes, and unsafe work environment.
However, some dismissals may involve discrimination. This is discrimination could be based on the employee’s gender, race, sex, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation. For instance, if an older employee is dismissed without reason because they are deemed “too old,” this can easily amount to age discrimination-based wrongful termination.
Participating In Illegal Activity
Terminating an employee’s employment is wrongful if the employee refuses to perform an illegal act for the company’s benefit. Examples of such illegal activities include tax fraud, falsifying documents, wage and hour violations, misrepresentation of crucial information, unlawful deductions, and so on.
Exercising the Right to Protected Leave
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees have the right to certain protected leaves, such as maternity and medical leave. Taking legally protected leaves also makes the case for wrongful termination if you’re fired as a result.
Violation of Employment Contract
A wrongful termination lawsuit may be initiated if the employer fails to abide by a written or implied contract specifying the length of employment or any other issue. For example, a one-year dismissal of an employee with a two-year contract can be deemed wrongful termination.
Reason For Termination That Is Inadequate or Fabricated
Sometimes, employers may offer an apparent cause for termination that doesn’t correlate with the employee’s record. For example, an employee with good performance reports being dismissed due to “poor performance” may have reasons to believe they were unjustly fired.
Breach Of The Duty Of Good Faith And Fair Dealing
Nonetheless, some jurisdictions acknowledge the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. For instance, terminating an employee to avoid paying out a sales commission or firing them prior to the retirement benefits vesting in such places would breach this covenant.
This is when the working conditions become so unbearable or intolerable that any reasonable person would be compelled to resign. For instance, sexual harassment, unsafe work environment, or demotion without cause may be grounds for a claim of constructive discharge.
Constructive discharge is also referred to as “constructive termination” or “constructive dismissal” in some states.
An employee’s resignation because of such conditions could quality as grounds for wrongful termination.
Key Elements of a Lawsuit for Wrongful Termination
Before pursuing a wrongful termination case, it is important to know some important elements that may either make or break your case. Wrongful termination cases can be complex, but breaking them down into these five key elements can help you navigate the legal process more effectively.
To file your wrongful termination lawsuit, you must prove that you had an employment relationship with that particular employer. In most cases, you must provide evidence of your employee status – that could be as a full-timer, a part-time worker, or a contractor. It is also important to clarify whether you are an independent contractor or an employee.
Protected Status or Activity
Most wrongful termination claims usually cite discrimination or retaliation. If that’s what your case is about, you must show that your discharge resulted from one of these protected statuses or activities (e.g., race, sex, age, disability, whistle-blowing). Evidence of discriminatory remarks, emails, or an unfair treatment pattern will increase your chances of success.
Adverse Employment Action
This includes demonstrating that you were subject to unfavorable treatment in your workplace, which may include being fired, demoted, or subject to a substantial change in your working conditions. Showing a straight cause-and-effect connection between your protected status or activity and the unfavorable action is essential.
Breach of Law or Contract by Employer
To win a wrongful termination lawsuit, you should prove that your employer breached federal, state, or employment contracts. This may involve showing that the dismissal was not policy, procedure, or employment agreement compliant.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
In some instances, you will be expected to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit. This usually includes claims of discrimination under federal laws like Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is also imperative that the victim files a complaint with the appropriate government agency, such as the EEOC, in most cases.
How To Win an Employment Lawsuit Against Your Employer
“Can you sue for wrongful termination?” is a common question among employees who believe they were unfairly fired.
The fact is, a wrongful termination lawsuit may be filed against your employer.
To win in this situation, you need to have a clear strategy. There are several important aspects that make up a winning lawsuit. These steps will assist wrongfully terminated individuals in increasing their chances of a favorable outcome.
Step 1: Gather Strong Evidence
Your success in winning the wrongful termination lawsuit is dependent on your ability to provide good evidence. Your evidence may include emails, documents, witness testimonies, and others. Therefore, the more convincing and well-proven your evidence, the better you’re placed in the court.
Step 2: Consult an Employment Attorney
It is important to consult with an experienced employment attorney. They have the legal understanding to evaluate your case, identify legal breaches, and devise an appropriate legal strategy. An attorney can also offer you good counsel on the way forward through the legal process.
Step 3: Establish Wrongful Termination Grounds
Your success in the lawsuit depends on showing that your termination was contrary to the employment laws. As mentioned earlier, discrimination, whistleblowing, breach of contract, or violation of labor laws are the typical grounds for common wrongful termination. An attorney will assist you to pinpoint to the specific grounds that relate to your case.
Step 4: Follow Proper Legal Procedures
It is important to follow through with legal procedures and deadlines. If you do not file your lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, your case will surely be dismissed and you’ll automatically lose your right to take further legal action now or in the future regarding that particular case. Your attorney will ensure that all the necessary documents are filed accurately and that all deadlines are met.
Step 5: Prepare for Negotiations and/or Trial
Often, most wrongful termination cases are settled before going to trial through negotiations or settlements. Your lawyer will discuss with your employer or their legal counsel on your behalf to reach a settlement that works in your best interests. In case of a standoff between your legal team and your employer’s representations, your lawyer is well-poised to fight for your rights in the courtroom by filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.
How Long Do You Have To Sue for Wrongful Termination?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate yet sometimes necessary situation of having to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, you only have a limited time to do so. The statute of limitations in your jurisdiction during this period may be important as it can affect your chances of recovering from your injustice.
Statute of Limitations
A lawsuit must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations, which is the legal timeframe for bringing such a case against your employer. For wrongful termination cases, it goes back to the alleged wrongful event — the day of termination without reason.
⚖️PRO TIP | It is important to understand the statute of limitations of your jurisdiction as it may vary from state to state and at the federal level.
Federal vs. State Jurisdictions
Regarding the statute of limitations for federal wrongful termination cases, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, ADEA, and ADA are the applicable statutes. These laws safeguard against termination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability.
Generally, you have 180 days to file a charge with the EEOC. The clock begins to count from the date of your termination. That said, in states with their own fair employment practices agencies, this window can be extended to 300 days.
State-Specific Laws and Timeframes
In some states, the laws relating to wrongful termination claims are based on federal and common laws. For example, California’s statute of limitations for wrongful termination based on discrimination or harassment is usually one year after the alleged wrongful event. Remember to consult a lawyer or research the laws of your specific jurisdiction, as the time frames may differ between states.
Contractual Agreements and Employment Contracts
Some employment contracts include specific periods for filing a wrongful termination claim. These contractual agreements may either reduce or extend the statute of limitations. Therefore, if you have an employment contract, please have an experienced labor and employment attorney review it before filing a claim or lawsuit.
Continuing Violation Doctrine
In specific instances, the “continuing violation doctrine” may be enforced. This legal concept allows a plaintiff to consolidate multiple acts as a single violation, even if they transpired over a prolonged period.
However, the application of this doctrine differs by jurisdiction and may not necessarily be relevant in wrongful termination. You should talk to a lawyer to find out whether your circumstances fall within these exceptions.
Exemptions to the Statute of Limitation
In certain cases, some exceptions to the statute of limitations may apply. These exceptions may result from fraudulent concealment of information, incapacitated individuals, or other extenuating circumstances. While relying on exceptions, it should be noted that they can be cumbersome. Therefore, you need to consult with an experienced employment lawyer to determine how best to proceed.
What Is a Typical Employment Lawsuit Settlement?
Before we discuss the typical settlement of an employment lawsuit, it is important to note that every case is unique, and settlements can vary greatly in the amount and the specific terms.
Usually, a settlement will have the employer offer compensation to the aggrieved employee, who would, in most cases, drop their legal claims in exchange for the money. The settlement figure can be anything from thousands of dollars to millions, depending upon factors like the nature or level of the alleged wrong, the strength of the evidence, and the financial resources of the employer.
⚖️ PRO TIP | A wrongful termination settlement calculator can give you an idea of what your case may be worth, but it is crucial to seek proper legal advice in order to understand your options.
Other than monetary payment, a standard employment lawsuit settlement can also include non-monetary terms. For example, the employer might promise to give a good reference, erase negative performance reports, or rehire the employee. Further, confidentiality terms might restrict the parties from disclosing the terms of settlement or the dispute itself.
It is important to understand that settling an employment lawsuit usually benefits both parties. Due to time, cost, and negative publicity, employers may opt to settle. However, employees go for settlements to avoid unpredictable trial outcomes and obtain compensation sooner rather than later.
Mediation is one of the most important means of settling disputes between an employer and the employee in such a scenario. Doing this can be instrumental in finding the middle ground and arriving at a consensus that is acceptable to both parties.
Keep in mind that not all cases end up in settlements, and the amount of settlement depends on the unique merits of each case. If you want to understand how much your case is worth, contact a knowledgeable employment law attorney in your state.
Final Thoughts on Wrongful Termination Cases
The result of wrongful termination cases could vary; there are no promises. However, being aware of the main elements and instances of wrongful termination can help individuals pursue legal redress. Therefore, involving a knowledgeable lawyer, collecting information, and pursuing justice rigorously is imperative.
Although success rates could differ, there is no denying the fact that knowledge and determination play a great role in winning such cases. Remember, your rights at the workplace are important. Pursue them; they are worth fighting for.