Wrongful Termination LawsApril 9, 2010
There is no Federal “wrongful termination law” per se. Rather there are a variety of Federal laws that, if violated by employers when discharging employees, might constitute wrongful termination. Collectively, such laws are generally called wrongful termination laws or wrongful discharge laws.
It might also constitute wrongful termination if employers violated constitutional provisions, state laws or public policy when discharging employees. The same goes if employers breached legal principles or concepts related to employment.
For example, it might be wrongful termination if an employer discharged an employee:
- In violation of a state or Federal discrimination law
- In violation of the employment-related provisions in the Fair Credit Reporting Act or Bankruptcy Act
- In violation of rights granted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
- In violation of a state voting leave law
- In violation of the employer’s own discharge policy
- In breach of an explicit or implied contract of employment or an employer-union collective bargaining agreement (contract law)
- In breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing
- According to the constructive discharge doctrine
- Because the employee would not break a law (public policy violation)
- Under the guise of a false statement of fact
- For jury duty (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure Act)
Additionally, it might be wrongful termination if an employer discharged an employee in retaliation for:
- Reasonably exercising employee rights under relevant employment and labor laws
- Reasonably exercising union rights
- Legitimately taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
- Serving in the military
- Wage garnishment for one debt
Relevant wrongful termination laws allow victims of employer violations to seek relief by filing complaints with the government agencies that enforce the laws, filing private lawsuits, or both. However, because of the variety of laws, legal principles and legal concepts under which unfairly-discharged employees may have legitimate claims of wrongful termination, such cases can be complex.
For example, in some cases, such as violations of public policy verses specific written laws, there may not be an appropriate state or Federal agency with which to file a complaint. In such cases, only private lawsuits might provide relief.
Additionally, the Doctrine of Employment At Will is so strong in the U.S. that it can make it difficult to prove wrongful termination.
As a case in point, states are allowed to enact wrongful termination laws that essentially weaken the Doctrine. Yet, at last check, only Arizona and Montana had enacted such laws. States may also adopt the 1991 Model Employment Termination Act (META), which requires employers to show good cause for discharging employees under the Doctrine. Yet, at last check, no state had adopted it.
Subsequently, it’s a good idea for an unfairly-discharged employee to seek the advice of a lawyer, if the employee wishes to discover whether or not it might have constituted wrongful termination. Lawyers often take winnable wrongful termination cases on a contingency basis.
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