Getting fired is one of life’s most stressful experiences, especially when the firing is unjustified. Although employment relationships in Alabama are at-will — employees may quit at any time and employers may lay off employees without reason — the law does not permit an employer to fire employees under certain circumstances:
- Discrimination. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws prohibit an employer from firing someone on the basis of race, nationality, religion, sex – including pregnancy, color, age or disability.
- Breach of contract. An employer may not breach an employment contract or agreement, including an employer-union collective bargaining agreement. For example, last month a prison doctor under contract with the State of California — who had reduced his private practice to accommodate the growing inmate population and was abruptly fired from the prison without explanation — won a wrongful termination lawsuit and was awarded $3.3 million.
- Violation of employer’s discharge policy. Where an employee handbook, company policy manual, or other similar document outlines job termination procedures, those procedures must be followed.
- Retaliation. Your employer cannot fire you for rejecting sexual advances, refusing to do something illegal, reporting (whistle blowing) the company’s illegal activities to the authorities, filing a complaint against employers for discrimination, or other claim for compensation. For example, this past October a court awarded an academic whistle-blower $819,000 after the University of Virginia fired him for reporting that his mentor had misappropriated grant funds.
Although difficult to prove, you may have a claim for constructive discharge if you felt pressured to resign because your employer made your working conditions so intolerable that any reasonable employee would also have quit under the same circumstances.
If you are having difficulties at work, it may be beneficial for you to consult with an employment law attorney to help you fully understand your rights. If you are fired, a lawyer can determine if your employer followed proper termination and post-employment procedures and assures your employer provides you with the best possible severance package.
If a violation has taken place, your lawyer can assist you with a wrongful termination lawsuit. Our office specializes in employment law and is at your service. Call our office today for a consultation.