Lawrence N. Lavigne, Esq., L.L.C.
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When does getting fired constitute wrongful termination?

Getting fired is an emotional, even humiliating experience. Many people pride themselves on their professional accomplishments and feel emotions ranging from devastation to anger when an employer no longer wants to retain their services.

It is totally normal for people facing the loss of their job to consider if they have any legal rights or options. Both a desire to punish the former employer and a hope of things going back to how they used to be can motivate people to seek options after getting fired from a job.

In most cases, loss of a job or termination of an employee is legitimate and fair. Companies have significant discretion when it comes to making decisions about staffing. However, there are circumstances in which a termination is actually a violation of employee rights. These situations, referred to as wrongful termination, often leave employees in actionable positions.

Employers cannot fire or demote you due to protected characteristics

There are certain traits or characteristics that you have very little control over. From your race to your gender, these characteristics can impact how employers view you and your degree of professional success.

While it is illegal to discriminate against employees because of their racial background, religion, race, gender or disability, many companies still engage in discriminatory hiring and firing practices. If you have any reason to believe that a protected characteristic played a role in your termination, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.

There are other situations that can constitute wrongful termination. These include breach of contract, retaliation against whistleblowers or firing a worker who refuses to break the law. Workers who believe their employer has pushed or forced them into quitting could also have a claim for constructive discharge.

Layoffs and restructuring efforts can be a way to hide discrimination

There are many legitimate reasons why companies need to restructure or engage layoffs of some workers or even whole departments. Companies owe their employees and their shareholders responsibility to turn a profit. Sometimes, that means changing the structure of the business itself or streamlining the workforce.

While it is perfectly legal to restructure a company and eliminate redundant or unnecessary positions, it is not legal to use restructuring or layoffs as a means of getting rid of a certain demographic of employees. Older workers tend to be particularly vulnerable to institutional discrimination in layoffs or restructuring.

Companies may get rid of their oldest and highest paid employees and then replace them with younger, lower paid staff. If there seems to be any one characteristic shared by a significant number of the people terminated or laid off, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.

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