What is wrongful termination and how can I prove it?

Wrongful termination may occur in circumstances where an employer does not follow his or her own policy and procedures for dismissing an employee. This is otherwise known as an employer breaching an implied contract between the employer and employee. 

Implied Contracts

An implied contract is a contract in which the terms have not been specifically agreed upon between the employer and employee. However, the terms are understood because there are company policies and procedures defined in an employee handbook or staff manual. Often within the employee handbook there will be policies relating to a company’s termination procedures. If the company does not follow the termination procedures contained within the handbook, the employee could sue for wrongful termination

Implied contracts also contain oral and/or verbal statements made by the employer. These statements may relate to promotions, terms for termination, or how to treat other employees. A company’s policy could be reflected by a company’s employee manual or defined by how a company has treated other employees in the past, also known as a company’s "custom and practice." 

However, employers generally want to protect themselves from potential breach of implied contract lawsuits, so they will have their employees sign a document that states that any company documents, such as the employee manual or handbook, does not constitute a formal agreement between the employer and employee. If the employee signs this type of document, then the employee may not have the opportunity to bring a wrongful termination action against the employer for a breach of implied contract. Where this type of document does not exist, an employee may have a potential claim for wrongful termination. 

Pursuing a Wrongful Termination Action 

In order to pursue a wrongful termination action for breach of implied contract, the employer would have had to violate an implied contract term when firing the employee. For instance, a company with a policy dictating an employee give proper notice before resigning (generally, two weeks), an implied agreement may also exist for the employer to give proper notice to the employee before terminating the individual’s employment. If the employer fails to give proper implied notice without any type of severance, the employee could have a wrongful termination action against their employer. 

Wrongful termination can even occur in employment that is considered at will. At will employment is employment for an indefinite period of time that can end by either the employer or the employee for any time and for no particular reason at all. Terms of a contract, whether express or implied, would override the idea of at will employment, if the terms of the contract define termination policies and procedures. If a specific notice period is required under the contract prior to termination, the employer is not exempt from this contract requirement under the guise that the employer-employee relationship is at will. 

Getting Legal Help

An experienced employment law attorney should be contacted to analyze the facts and circumstances of your particular case. Wrongful termination actions can be filed in a variety of ways, and employment attorneys have the background to assess your case and proceed in the direction that will bring you the most desired results. Even though it may seem like a clear violation of the company’s policy for the manner in which you were terminated, the handling of this type of litigation can become quite complicated, and it is best to have an employment expert to walk you through the process. 

Wrongful termination law is based upon a variety of regulations and statutes. So again, the complexities of these matters are best maneuvered by attorneys specializing in wrongful termination and/or employment law. Contact an employment law attorney today.