Navigating the complexities of employment termination can be a challenging and often distressing experience. Unfair termination, also known as wrongful dismissal, raises questions about legality, justice, and an employee’s rights in the workplace. If you believe that you have been wrongfully dismissed, you may be wondering about how to go about challenging it. The team at Swartz Swidler, LLC is here to help. Let’s look at the aspects of wrongful termination as well as a strategy to help you with seeking redress and justice.
What is Unfair Termination?
Unfair termination, also known as wrongful termination or wrongful dismissal, occurs when an employee is fired from their job for reasons that are considered illegal or in violation of employment laws. While the specifics can vary by jurisdiction, some common examples of unfair termination include:
If an employee is terminated based on characteristics such as race, gender, age, religion, disability, or other protected categories, it may be considered unfair or discriminatory termination.
If an employee is fired in retaliation for engaging in legally protected activities, such as filing a complaint about workplace harassment, reporting unsafe working conditions, or participating in a lawful labor strike, it could be considered unfair termination.
This also includes being fired for whistleblowing.
Breach of Contract
If the employment relationship is governed by an employment contract, and the employer violates the terms of that contract in terminating the employee, it may be deemed unfair termination. This could include not following the procedures outlined in the contract or terminating the employee for reasons explicitly prohibited by the contract.
Violation of Public Policy
Some jurisdictions recognize a claim for wrongful termination if the firing goes against public policy. For example, terminating an employee for refusing to engage in illegal activities or for exercising a legal right may be considered unfair.
In some cases, an employer’s actions or working conditions may be so intolerable that the employee feels compelled to resign. If the resignation is a result of the employer’s actions, it might be considered a form of unfair termination known as constructive discharge.
What Are Legal Reasons for Termination?
If you are an at-will employee, meaning you are employed at an at-will basis, either you or the employer can terminate your employment at any time, for any reason (only legal ones) without any prior notice.
It’s important to note that while the employer has broad discretion in terminating the employment relationship, there are certain exceptions and limitations. For example, an employer cannot terminate an employee for reasons that violate anti-discrimination laws or other employment laws. Additionally, employment contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or other legal provisions may modify the at-will relationship, creating additional obligations for both parties.
Am I Entitled to a Severance Package?
No, you are not entitled to a severance package. There is no federal law that dictates severance packages are required for those employees who were terminated. However, if your employer has previously offered severance packages or has a clause about severance packages in your employment contract and does not give you one, you should speak with an attorney.
How to Challenge a Wrongful Dismissal
If you believe that you have been unfairly terminated, you may be able to take legal action against your employer. Here are some steps that can help you put together information, find an employment law attorney, and begin seeking compensation:
1. Review Employment Contracts and Policies
Examine your employment contract and any company policies or handbooks to understand the terms and conditions of your employment, including termination procedures and any grounds for dismissal.
2. Consult an Employment Lawyer
Seek advice from an employment lawyer who specializes in labor law. They can help you understand your rights, assess the strength of your case, and guide you through the legal process. If you are located in New Jersey, consider the employment attorneys of Swartz Swidler, LLC. Our experienced team has handled numerous cases and can assist with yours.
3. Gather Evidence
Collect any relevant evidence that supports your claim, such as employment contracts, emails, performance evaluations, or witness statements. Documentation can strengthen your case.
4. Determine Grounds for Wrongful Dismissal
Identify the specific grounds on which you believe your dismissal was wrongful, such as discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, violation of labor laws, or constructive discharge.
5. File a Complaint with a Regulatory Agency
In some jurisdictions, there may be regulatory agencies or labor boards that handle employment-related disputes. Filing a complaint with the appropriate agency might be a prerequisite before pursuing legal action.
6. Negotiate with the Employer
Before taking legal action, you may choose to negotiate with your former employer to resolve the issue amicably. This could involve mediation or settlement discussions.
7. File a Lawsuit
If negotiation fails, and you believe you have a strong case, you can file a lawsuit against your former employer. Your lawyer will guide you through the legal procedures, including filing the necessary court documents.
8. Participate in Legal Proceedings
Attend court hearings and participate in legal proceedings as required. Your lawyer will represent you and present your case, but your active involvement may be necessary at different stages.
9. Explore Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Depending on the jurisdiction, you may be required to explore alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration or mediation, before going to court.
10. Settlement or Judgment
The case may be resolved through a settlement or, if it goes to trial, a judgment may be issued. The outcome will depend on the facts of your case and applicable laws.
Looking for an Employment Lawyer in New Jersey?
From scrutinizing employment contracts to seeking legal counsel and gathering compelling evidence, the journey to challenge wrongful dismissals requires diligence and perseverance. If you find yourself in such a situation, remember that you have rights, and taking informed steps can make a significant difference. Whether through negotiation, regulatory complaints, or legal proceedings, the path may vary, but the goal remains clear – to seek fair treatment and accountability.
Swartz Swidler, LLC, with our experienced and compassionate team of employment attorneys, stands ready to assist those facing wrongful dismissals. Give the law offices of Swartz Swidler a call today at 856-685-7420 or fill out the contact form.