Fired? 4 Ways to Tell If You Were Wrongfully Terminated

December 15, 2016
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Like most states, Maryland is an at-will state when it comes to employment. This means that an employer can terminate an employee for no cause at all at any time. This does not, however, give employers carte blanche. There are certain situations in which an employer may not terminate an employee, and if it does so anyway, the termination is considered wrongful. In that situation, the employee who is terminated may have a cause of action against their employer. Here are four situations in which the termination of an employee can be considered wrongful.

You have an employment contract

While rare, there are certain jobs that come with a contract of employment. That contract can be oral, written, or implied. An implied contract is one where the actions of the employer give the employee a reasonable expectation that their employment will not end. A written contract is the most clear as it should set forth the terms under which an employee would be fired for cause and, without those conditions, the employee will not be fired without cause. An oral contract is one in which the employer verbally tells the employee that they will not be fired without cause or some similar statement. If there is an employment contract and the employee is terminated without cause – meaning for a reason that is not enumerated in the contract as a fireable offense – the employee may have a cause of action for wrongful termination.

Your status in a protected class contributed to the firing 

Discrimination in firing is strictly prohibited by a slew of federal and state laws. Thus, employers are prohibited from firing employees based on characteristics such as an employee’s race, color, national origin, gender, age, pregnancy status, disability, or religion. It is also illegal for an employer to fire an employee for exercising their rights based upon their protected characteristic. Thus, an employee whose religion prohibits work on a Sunday cannot be retaliated against for refusing to work on a Sunday.

You have filed complaints with other agencies 

It is illegal for employers to terminate employees because they have filed complaints with government agencies regarding workplace safety or wage issues. Similarly, it is illegal to terminate whistleblower employees who have reported a company’s or employer’s unlawful activity to a government agency. Employees who file for worker’s compensation claims are also protected from being terminated solely on the basis of their filing a claim.

You have taken leave to participate in civic or military duty 

Members of the military who are called up to serve have a certain number of job protections given by both the federal and state laws, chief among them being job security and prohibition of discrimination based on military service. Individuals who are called to serve jury duty cannot be forced to use personal or sick leave to attend jury duty, nor can they be fired or otherwise penalized for serving on a jury. Certain employers are also bound by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and must provide a certain amount of unpaid time to individuals for specific situations.

If you have been terminated and fall into any of these categories, contact The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford to discuss if you have a cause of action for wrongful termination. The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford can confidentially help you evaluate your potential claim and advise you of your options.