Getting fired is never easy. Sometimes it comes as no surprise: The company is cutting back. You know, in your heart of hearts, that your job performance wasn’t up to snuff. In these cases, you dust yourself off, polish your resume, and resolve to do better next time.
But what if you suspect you were wrongfully terminated?
In order to sue your employer for wrongfully termination under the law, you need to meet certain specific criteria. Here’s a brief overview of what they are.
The Concept of “At Will”
You may have heard the term “at will” without really understanding how it applies to your employment status.
Nearly all states in the U.S. are “at will” states. Your employer hires you “at will” and can fire you “at will” — that is, without a specific reason — just as you can quit for any reason. Individual contracts signed between employees and employers take precedence over the “at will” status of your employment, but in the absence of a contract, being fired unfairly, by itself, does not give you the ability to sue your employer.
So when, exactly can a person sue?
Discrimination Under State or Federal Law
If your termination violates federal or state discrimination laws, you may have a wrongful termination case. The complete list is broad, but most discrimination cases involve race, age, gender, or disability. Additionally, an employer is prohibited from firing an employee if they complain about discrimination or harassment because of race, age, gender, disability, or other protected categories.
Violations of the “Whistleblower” Statute
Under law, no one can force you to do something illegal — for instance, you can’t be fired for refusing to help your employer commit fraud. You also can’t be fired for reporting fraudulent activities under state and federal whistleblower statutes.
Time Off for Serious Medical Conditions
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) says that qualified employees are entitled to up 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave to care for themselves or a close family member who suffers from a serious medical condition. Also, the FMLA gives qualified employees up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn. If your employer denies your request for a leave, or fires you for taking a protected leave, you might have a claim.
Still Wondering if You Have a Wrongful Termination Case?
GCW is a Wisconsin law firm with offices in Eau Claire, Madison, and Milwaukee. Our compassionate and dedicated attorneys have over 20 years of experience in wrongful termination cases. We would be happy to parse the complexities of Wisconsin labor law and help you determine if you have a case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.