When you have worked hard to build your career and secure your job, being wrongfully terminated by your employer can feel devastating. If you were fired illegally, you should know that your legal options include taking out a claim with your company’s liability insurance and filing a lawsuit against your employer. The first step is to contact a wrongful termination lawyer in Jackson County, Missouri who can help you review your employment documents and assess the circumstances of your termination.
What Kind of Settlement Can You Get for a Wrongful Termination?
If you have been wrongfully terminated, you have the right to collect damages from your employer. Damages are often paid via an employment liability settlement.
Damages take the form of financial compensation for your losses. The kinds of damages you can seek in a wrongful termination case include:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Bonuses and promotions
- 401k contributions and other benefits
- Out-of-pocket expenses needed to find a new job
- Emotional distress
In a work context, punitive damages are intended to punish the employer for an especially egregious violation of employment law. While reserved for extreme cases, punitive damages can increase the value of your claim if they are available. A lawyer who is familiar with court practices can help you determine whether or not you have grounds to demand punitive damages.
Who Pays the Settlement?
Most employers carry a type of insurance called employment practices liability insurance. This type of insurance provides payouts on behalf of the employer when employment law violations such as wrongful termination occur.
How Much Money Can I Expect to Receive?
The size of settlements varies greatly depending on the evidence against the employer, the nature of the job that was terminated, and the employee’s compensation package. In Missouri, most wrongful termination settlements are valued between $3,000 and $10,000, however, a strong case can yield more money. Your lawyer will help you list all of your damages and fight for the maximum amount to which you are legally entitled.
What If I Cannot Win a Settlement?
If you have legal grounds to collect damages and cannot secure the amount of money you deserve through a settlement, you have the right to take your employer to court. In fact, court-ordered payouts can be higher than settlements, yielding upwards of $300,000. Many Missouri courts have sided with the plaintiff, showing that winning a case is possible and giving leverage to wrongful termination claims.
The risk of going to court is that if the court sides against you, you will not receive a payout, and you will have lost your ability to negotiate for a settlement. Additionally, going to court can result in additional legal expenses, which may or may not be paid by the losing side. Your lawyer can help you weigh all of the pros and cons before deciding to fight for a settlement or file a lawsuit.
Can I Get My Job Back?
Some individuals would like their employment to be restored. The outcome of a wrongful termination case is negotiable, especially if you are working with your employer and their insurance company to settle outside of court. In addition to any lost income, the claimant can often choose between additional compensation for the expenses incurred while searching for a new job or reinstatement.
Understanding the Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Case
The Limits of At-Will Employment
The concept of at-will employment dictates that employers may fire employees at any time without having a “valid” reason. Likewise, an employee may quit at any time. Some states recognize this concept, and others do not. Missouri is an at-will employment state; however, under some conditions, termination of an employee is still illegal.
Multiple state and federal statutes prohibit the termination of employees based on race, sex, national origin, religion, pregnancy status, and other protected categories. If you suspect that you were terminated because your employer holds a bias against members of a group you belong to, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
Proving that a termination was rooted in discriminatory practices can be done by interviewing co-workers and other individuals who are familiar with the work environment. Your lawyer might also look into the company’s HR records to determine if, statistically, members of your group are under-represented or under-compensated. Being able to show that you were replaced by a candidate with less experience and/or fewer qualifications can also strengthen your case.
Illegal Acts and Violations of Public Policy
An employer cannot coerce you into doing any illegal activities or violating public policy in any way. Therefore, your employment is not contingent on your willingness to submit to unlawful requests. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals were wrongfully terminated for complying with government-mandated health and safety measures at the expense of their employers.
Employer retaliation occurs when an employer terminates an employee or takes other punitive actions against them, such as lowering their pay or reducing their workload. Employers are not permitted to use the threat of termination as a means of preventing employees from demanding the wages they are owed, taking the breaks they are entitled to, or going on temporary leave under pregnancy laws, or exercising their rights under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Whistleblowing is a specific type of employer retaliation that happens when employers retaliate against their employees for reporting illegal behavior. Reports that are the source of whistleblower claims often involve discrimination, sexual harassment, and wage law violation. Often, the whistleblower is fired for reporting employer abuse of which he or she was the target; however, the report could also have been made on behalf of a co-worker.
Breach of Contract
Employers are bound to uphold the terms of the employment contracts they sign with their employees. Sometimes, these contracts limit the employer’s ability to observe at-will employment. For example, a contract might specify that the employee is guaranteed to retain his or her job for a specified period of time. Any violations of such clauses constitute wrongful termination.
Holding Your Employer Accountable
The kind of settlement you can receive for wrongful termination depends largely on your ability to demonstrate your losses. Proving wrongful termination could be difficult, given that your employer is likely to make up a “valid” reason for firing you. However, hiring a wrongful termination lawyer who has successfully secured settlements on behalf of his or her clients can put the power of experience and skilled arguments behind your case.
Your lawyer will look hard at the circumstances of your termination, your company’s firing practices, and your employment documents to find evidence against any claims that you were fired for a legal reason. With the backing of a strong, reputable law firm, you can show your employer that you are serious about exercising your rights.
Fighting for Justice in the Jackson County, Missouri Community
Our attorneys in Jackson County, Missouri are ready to help you take action against the employer who fired you under illegal circumstances. To schedule a free consultation with a wrongful termination lawyer, contact Holman Schiavone, LLC.