Losing your job can be a very upsetting experience. If you suspect you were fired for unfair or wrongful reasons, you may be able to win compensation with a wrongful termination claim against your former employer. Wrongful termination attorneys specialize in helping recently fired employees recover lost pay and other damages. If you’ve been wrongfully let go in Jackson County, Missouri, a local attorney can help you prepare for your case in the following ways.
How Can I Prepare for a Wrongful Termination Case?
When an employer fires an employee, they’ll often claim a lawful reason such as poor performance, attendance problems, broken company rules, or workplace misconduct. If the real reason was illegal, such as discrimination, retaliation, or maternity leave, the employer will rarely admit it.
Therefore, preparation for a wrongful termination case mainly involves collecting evidence to prove that the employer’s stated reason isn’t true and that the real reason for your termination was illegal. First and foremost, you need to understand your rights and what constitutes wrongful termination in Missouri law.
Understanding Wrongful Termination Laws in Jackson County, Missouri
The majority of employees in Missouri don’t have an employment contract and are considered to be at-will workers. This means either the employee or employer can terminate their working relationship at any time and for any reason, except for reasons deemed to be illegal.
Whether you were an at-will employee or you had an employment contract, you may sue your former employer for wrongful termination if their reasons for the termination broke the law. Here are a few reasons for firing someone that would always be deemed wrongful termination:
Your employer cannot fire you because of your race, sex, age, religion, pregnancy, disability, or sexual orientation. Any discrimination is considered an illegal reason to terminate an employee.
If you ever report that your employer is conducting unlawful activities or committing workplace violations, you are legally protected against retaliation. Your employer cannot later fire you as an act of revenge.
Employees are allowed by law to take time off work for medical reasons, provided that they have a doctor’s statement to prove their need for time away from work. The law states that employees on leave should have their position waiting for them when they’re ready to return to work.
This also applies to any employee taking maternity leave, paternity leave, or family leave to care for a sick loved one.
Any act of bad faith on behalf of the employer that is designed to rob the employee of benefits due to them under the terms of their contract may be considered wrongful termination. Bad-faith dealings may also apply to an implied employment agreement where no written contract exists.
If you believe any of these reasons were behind the termination of your job, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim. An attorney can help you clarify the strengths and weaknesses of your claim.
Collecting Evidence To Strengthen Your Claim
While preparing for your wrongful termination case, consider how you’re going to show that your employer’s stated reason was false. Think about any evidence you might collect that would refute their claim when laid out before a jury. If your employer claimed poor performance as the reason for termination, for example, you might use past positive performance reviews and positive customer feedback that demonstrate your record of good performance.
Successfully refuting your employer’s claimed reason is only the first part of the battle. You’ll also need to prove the true illegal reason for your termination. Statements made or emails sent by the employer might include incriminating evidence in this regard. Here are some sources of evidence that frequently prove valuable in a wrongful termination case:
After being fired, always request a written explanation from your employer stating exactly why you were terminated. You can request a formal explanation or simply request it via email.
The important thing is that you get your employer to confirm their claim of precisely why you were fired in written format. This gives you and your attorney a concrete false statement to tackle and refute. Or, if you’re lucky (or your employer trips up), this statement could even admit that your firing was illegal.
Emails and Messages
In our digital age, a great deal of evidence can be found in emails, team messaging apps, or social media messengers used by a company’s workforce. If you scour through old messages from your employer or other employees, you may find incriminating mentions of you or other employees that demonstrate discrimination, or you may find evidence of harassing, threatening, or illegal activity.
Your Personnel File
Another potentially excellent source of evidence is your personnel file, which should contain a timeline of your employment history with the company including performance reviews, details regarding promotions, and disciplinary actions or lack thereof. Employee personnel files can often provide a goldmine of evidence in wrongful termination cases.
If possible, request your personnel file and make copies of relevant pages. Employers may sometimes make changes to personnel files after illegally firing someone. If you have the opportunity, copy the entire file and mail it to yourself via certified mail.
The Employee Handbook
The employment policies laid out in the official employee handbook will detail grounds for termination and disciplinary actions. The handbook may prove clearly that your employer violated one or more of their company policies. Anything stated in a formal employee handbook is considered legally binding.
Consider any other employees who might sign a statement or provide testimony corroborating your story. While a witness statement is rarely enough to prove wrongful termination on its own, witnesses can help to illustrate a pattern of illegal behavior. This may be of great value when a jury is trying to decide who to believe.
Historical Patterns of Behavior
While preparing your case, also think about historical patterns of your employer’s behavior. If you’re trying to prove that you were fired because you took extended maternity leave, for instance, it will help if you can show that your employer has previously fired other employees just as they started or ended a period of paid or unpaid leave.
Sometimes, employees are given advance warning signs that termination may be on the horizon. You may hear rumors of unfair layoffs, or your relationship with your supervisor may take a turn for the worse. If you think you may soon be unfairly terminated, start preparing for a potential wrongful termination case by documenting everything.
Keep a record of any potentially relevant comments made by your employer, supervisors, and coworkers. Note down all performance reviews, promotions, demotions, changes in pay, disciplinary actions, or layoffs that occur. Record the time and date of any such information. This kind of detailed documentation can later help paint an accurate picture for a jury in order to prove the truth of your claim.
In order to claim unpaid back pay, you’ll need to prove how much you were ordinarily paid by your employer. Ideally, you should be able to provide monthly paycheck stubs going back for over a year.
The Value of Wrongful Termination Attorneys
Proving wrongful termination is often challenging, especially if your termination took you by surprise, and you had no time to gather evidence in advance. Without a mountain of robust evidence demonstrating a clear pattern of illegal behavior, wrongful termination cases can often devolve into your word against that of your employer.
Wrongful termination attorneys in Jackson County, Missouri, have in-depth knowledge of employment law and experience with many similar cases. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights, gather evidence for you, and argue your case in court if required.
Contact Holman Schiavone, LLC
at (816) 399-5149 for a free consultation. Our seasoned wrongful termination attorneys can help you win the full compensation you deserve.