If you were recently fired from your job, you might wonder whether your termination was lawful. While most employees work at will, employers can’t fire employees for illegal reasons. If you were filed for an unlawful reason, you might be entitled to pursue a claim against your employer. Here are seven examples of wrongful termination from the employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
1. Tolerating Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is considered to be a type of illegal sex discrimination in the workplace and should not be tolerated. If you were sexually harassed at your job to such an extent that the harassment created a hostile work environment, you should speak to an employment lawyer. Sexual harassment can take multiple forms, including obscene jokes, pornographic displays, unwanted touching, harassing messages or emails, and more. If you were fired for reporting sexual harassment, you might have valid claims for sex discrimination and retaliation against your employer.
2. Discrimination Based on Protected Characteristics
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and multiple other federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of certain protected characteristics, including the following:
- National origin
- Gender identity
- Genetic information
If you believe that your employer fired you because of your protected characteristics, you might have grounds to file a wrongful termination and discrimination case. An employment attorney can thoroughly investigate your case and help you file a discrimination and retaliation complaint as the first step in the litigation process. Since the filing deadline for discrimination and wrongful termination complaints is short, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
3. Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. When an employee is injured on the job, they have the right to file a workers’ comp claim for benefits. In exchange, they can’t file lawsuits against their employer. Even though the workers’ compensation system is meant to protect employees, employers sometimes retaliate against employees who file benefits claims. They might do this because of an increase in their workers’ compensation rates and to discourage other employees from filing claims. This type of conduct is illegal and might form the basis for a valid wrongful termination claim.
4. Laying Off Older Workers
A common type of illegal workplace discrimination occurs when employers are downsizing and preparing for layoffs. Some employers choose to lay off older workers while retaining younger, less qualified employees. When employers base their decisions to lay off older workers on their ages, this might qualify for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Employers can’t discriminate against workers who are 40 or older based on their age. The prohibition against discrimination covers all aspects of employment from hiring to firing.
5. Firing Employees For Taking Leave Under the FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that covers employers with 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of each other. Under this law, employees who have worked for at least 12 months and a minimum of 1,250 hours for a covered employer are entitled to take up to 12 weeks off from work each year to care for their family members’ serious medical conditions or their own. This leave is job-protected, meaning that your employer must return you to the same job or a substantially similar position at the same rate of pay when your leave ends. If your employer fired you for taking leave from work under the FMLA, you should speak to an attorney.
6. Terminations for Fighting for Unpaid Wages or Overtime
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes important rights for statutory employees. Employees must be paid at least the minimum wage. If they work more than 40 hours during a week, they must also be paid overtime for each additional hour worked. While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, New Jersey has set a state minimum wage of $13 per hour as of 2022. Since the state’s minimum wage is higher, you must be paid at least the state’s minimum wage for all hours you work and overtime for any hours above 40 in a week.
Some employers fire employees who pursue wage and hour claims. However, employers can’t retaliate against workers for engaging in protected activities. Pursuing a wage and hour claim against your employer is a protected activity. If your employer fired you for filing a wage and hour claim or for complaining about your unpaid wages internally, you might have a viable wrongful termination claim.
7. Whistleblower Retaliation
Multiple laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting their employer’s illegal conduct. If you reported your employer for safety violations or for perpetrating a fraud scheme against a state or federal agency, your employer can’t retaliate against you by terminating you. However, many employers illegally retaliate against employees who blow the whistle. If this happened to you, you should speak to an attorney.
Contact Swartz Swidler
If your employer fired you for any of the above-listed reasons, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler as soon as possible. We can review your case and discuss your next steps. Call us today for a free consultation at 856-685-7420.