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Understanding wrongful termination with at-will employment

If you're currently living in a state with termination at will (basically everywhere but Montana), it might feel like you have no recourse after being fired from a job. An employer is not required to have a cause for ending your employment. There are, however, circumstances where they are legally prevented from doing so. Your dismissal may be the result of unlawful discrimination. The first step to being awarded damages in a wrongful termination suit is to understand your rights as an employee.

You do not need to know the ins and outs of employment law. Still, you may want to be aware of some situations of wrongful dismissal. If you report sexual harassment or discrimination and are subsequently fired, it is considered a wrongful termination. If you support another employee who is being harassed or discriminated against then your discharge would also be wrongful. If an employee is pregnant and must take time off, they cannot lose their job as a result. If you report unsafe work conditions, it would be a wrongful dismissal. Firing cannot be retaliation against the employee for reports or claims the employee files.

As you prepare to speak with an attorney, you should begin to compile evidence for your case. Record the termination as best you are able, with as many dates and times as you can remember. Try to secure your personnel file, and gather pay stubs and bank records to demonstrate lost wages when seeking damages. Other damages that you may be eligible for include lost benefits, emotional suffering and potentially punitive damages.

By speaking with your fellow employees, you can get a better understanding if you're being singled out. Coworkers who differ from you in gender, race, sexual orientation or other protected status may not suffer the same consequences as you. Try to obtain a written record of the cause of your wrongful dismissal, it could support your case. There are statues of limitations for filing wrongful termination suits, so it's in your best interest to speak with an attorney and file quickly after your dismissal.

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