No one wants to be faced with sudden termination from a job. The only thing that can make this worse is being fired for an unfair reason or even no reason at all. Fortunately, there are laws set in place to protect employees and independent contractors from wrongful termination by giving them the opportunity to retrieve some or all of the money lost. If you believe your termination was illegal, you may want to consider suing your former employer for damages. There are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind before following through with such a major decision.
Ask why you were terminated
If you are unsure about why you have been fired, the first thing you can do is ask your employer why. You may already suspect that you’ve been unfairly terminated, but the answer you receive can be all the confirmation you need. If it doesn’t violate any privacy laws, consider recording the conversation as evidence in your potential case. If you cannot legally record the conversation, listen closely and try to write down as many details as possible. Ask the employer if they would be willing to send you their explanation in writing as well.
Gather all contractual documents and evidence
Your word is not enough to take your employer to court for wrongful termination. You will need to provide proof that there has been some breach of contract. Before doing anything else, make sure that you have collected all documents that will support your case. This includes the contract that you and your employer signed before the onset of the project, record of the conversation you had with your employer regarding termination, text messages, emails, performance reviews, and pay stubs. For additional evidence, consider including testimonials from co-workers or supervisors, and documentation of any rude or derogatory comments from your employer as well as the day, place, and time of occurrence.
Contact an employment attorney
The complexities of a wrongful termination lawsuit can be confusing. Even if you think you have a solid case, you could be overlooking several details that will make or break your chances of successfully obtaining compensation. Find an experienced lawyer that specializes in employment to review and analyze your case in order to determine if you have a case at all. Employee regulation and discrimination laws vary state by state. A qualified attorney will have knowledge of local workplace legislation and be able give you useful advice. A lawsuit can quickly become expensive due to service, filing, and witness fees. To save money, think about selecting a lawyer that does free first consultations and offers a contingency fee agreement, which means you’ll only have to pay them if you win your case.
File a complaint to the federal or state employment agency
In most cases, a wrongful termination lawsuit cannot proceed until an official complaint is filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or an equivalent state employment agency. Your attorney should know which agency your complaint needs to be submitted to. As the complaint filing process can be complicated for the average employee, your attorney should be willing to write the complaint and submit it for you. Your complaint must be served to your former employer via certified mail, county sheriff, or professional process server.
Consider an alternative dispute resolution
Going to trial is not typically a fun process for any of the parties involved. A trial of any kind can come with a lot of stress and a lengthy timeline. Moreover, you face the possibility of not even winning the case. There are alternative solutions such as a settlement, mediation, or arbitration.
- A settlement is a one-time payment or series of payments offered by your former employer before taking the case to court.
- A mediation is a sit-down between you and your former employer to reach a compromise with the assistance of a neutral third party, or mediator.
- An arbitration is very similar to a traditional court case, except the rules and procedures are simplified with a shorter timeline. Consider one of these options before deciding to make the paramount decision of going to trial.
It is important to understand that these are things to consider before making the decision to take your employer to court. Once you’ve made that judgment, you will have to begin making decisions about your case, such as the exact damages that you are pursuing, along with many other details. Use this guide to determine if it is worth it for you to spend your money and time on pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit.