What is Wrongful Termination?

By hrlineup | 16.03.2022

Employers have the right to choose who to work with and who does not fit in their organisation. If a team member does not fit into the work culture, and nothing can be done to resolve the situation, they may be terminated. In discharging individuals that do not fit the mould, care needs to be taken.  Firing an employee needs to be done legally in the eyes of the law. If not, it means that the rights of the employee have been violated, which could have costly implications. Employers must avoid wrongful termination. So, what is wrongful termination?

What Does Wrongful Termination mean?

Wrongful termination is the term used when one is fired for an illegal reason. It can also occur when an employee is fired, and the company policy is violated in the process.  When an employee is hired, they are typically given an employment contract. This contract will include an “at will” clause, enabling the employer to terminate the contract at will, without needing to share any reason or advance warning. Even with this clause in place, employers need to ensure that the discharge decisions they make abide with the law.

What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?

The following reasons may constitute wrongful termination: –

  • Any type of discrimination include discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability or ethnic background.
  • Discharging an employee because of lodging a complaint against an employer, for example, as a whistle blower.
  • Termination due to refusal to commit and illegal act on behalf of the employer.

When it comes to wrongful termination law, one may find that there is no direct act governing wrongful termination. For the most part, the law will presume employment is at will, except for the state of Montana. The rules also apply towards discrimination laws and illegal activity.

Employee Discharge Factors

Wrongful termination may apply in the case of a retaliatory discharge. Typically, the employee discharge factors may be referred to as protected activities. Firing an employee due to a protected activity is a direct violation of their rights. These can be classified as the following: –

  • An employee complaining about sexual harassment and subsequently being fired.
  • Being fired due to being pregnant or complaining due to allocation of less shifts due to pregnancy.
  • Being terminated following a claim for workers compensation due to a workplace injury.
  • A medical condition resulting in harassment or termination from the job.

When an employee feels as though a wrongful discharge has taken place, they may opt to take action through a suit via an employment attorney. Even so, unless there was a clear reason that constituted a wrongful termination, the employer may not be compelled to share the reason that the employee was fired.

Employers need to be careful when it comes to termination. There is the financial implication in case of a law suit, penalties or fines, but there is also damage that can be done to the reputation of the company.