According to the National Center for the State Courts, of all the civil cases filed, only 3% ever reach a jury.
If you have been fired without a good reason or in violation of federal or state law (e.g., discrimination), this could be a wrongful discharge and you can challenge your firing. However, before you take action, run your complaint by an Wrongful termination lawyer for advice because it is likely to be time consuming and costly, and the laws regulating firings vary from state-to-state. But if you succeed, employers can be made to pay back wages, fines, and possible punitive damages or you can be returned to your job.
What You Can Do as a Worker
If you believe that you have been or are about to be wrongfully terminated from your job, there are a number of steps you can take:
- Make a detailed record of events, including interviews or conversations regarding your termination. Make a list of witnesses who may be helpful in supporting your case.
- Consult a lawyer. Employment law is a complex an ever changing field. Don’t try and go it alone. There is a very short complaint filing periods for some statutory claims.
- Consult a state or federal agency for advice.
- Obtain a copy of your company’s written personnel policies. These may contain valuable information about your employer’s hiring and firing practices.
- Obtain a complete copy of your personnel file.
What You Can Do as an Employer
The most effective way to protect your self and your company from claims of wrongful discharge is to prevent such discharges from taking place.
- Establish formal personnel policies with the assistance of employment counsel. Know and follow your policies.
- Though it may sound obvious, treat your employees fairly and be consistent in your employment practices including termination practices.
- If you intend to reserve the right to terminate any employee “at will”, make sure this condition is stated explicitly in the company’s personnel manual or in the employment contract itself. Do not make the personnel manual the subject of the hiring interview or negotiations and do not make promises you do not intend to keep.
- Distribute or post required notices of the laws against employment discrimination and hold training sessions for all company managers and supervisors.
- Document all discipline and performance issues. Make sure performance evaluations are done in a timely manner, accurately, honestly, and in writing. Inform employees where improvement is needed.
- Thoroughly review the facts and circumstances leading to a possible termination decision and make sure all of the factors that could give rise to wrongful termination claims have been considered. Only discuss the termination with employees that have “a need to know”. Consult employment counsel.
- Even if you have reserved the right to terminate employment at will, don’t. There should always be a documented bona fide business reason for terminating employment.
- Make sure your Absenteeism rules do not run counter to the Family and Medical Leave Act.