When film producer Harvey Weinstein was fired recently following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace, you may have been surprised to learn that he contested the decision by filing a wrongful termination lawsuit. While it may be common for employees to feel that their getting fired was unfair, the legal grounds for termination to be considered wrongful are quite specific.
What exactly is wrongful termination, and how do you know if you have a case?
If you were fired, use this checklist as a starting point to determine whether your situation qualifies as wrongful termination:
- Discrimination: Can you demonstrate that you were fired for discriminatory reasons (because of your age, gender, race, religion etc.)? For instance, did your employer say or do anything that would indicate prejudice toward certain groups of people?
- Harassment: Was your firing connected to harassment associated with any of the personal characteristics above? For example, sexual advances or derogatory comments about your religion—if they resulted in termination—may be considered wrongful termination.
- Retaliation: Were you fired as punishment for being a whistleblower? Reporting illegal or unsafe behavior in the workplace is considered a protected practice, for which employers are not allowed to terminate or otherwise penalize their employees.
- Breach of contract: Did your firing violate your employment contract? Even if you didn’t have a written contract with your employer, you could still have an implied contract based on your employer’s words, actions, or employee handbook.
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, it’s important to learn about the compensation you may be entitled to. An employment attorney can walk you through your case and help you understand your rights.