We Help Workers Who Have Been Wrongly Terminated
When workers are wrongly terminated from their jobs, we can help. Our role is to hold employers accountable to the full extent of the law when a wrongful termination occurs, so that our client is fully compensated, and so that employers will hopefully realize that their illegal conduct will not be tolerated.
We will seek all appropriate compensation for clients, including lost pay, lost benefits, attorneys’ fees, and, where appropriate, punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed solely to punish a wrongdoer (including a company) for intentionally outrageous conduct. As an example, when it is clear that an employee was fired solely because of an illegal reason, and senior management is shown to have supported such termination, then punitive damages may be appropriate.
It’s important to note the punitive damages are not available in all cases, and that there are often limits on the amount that can be awarded under many types of wrongful termination lawsuits for damages other than back pay and benefits.
What Does “At-Will” Employment Mean?
Washington is an “at-will” state. This means that except for employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, employers may terminate an employee for any reason, or for no reason, except for an illegal reason.
What Type of Termination is Illegal?
Employers may not terminate an employee for an illegal reason under either Washington state law or federal law. Such illegal reasons include termination based upon:
- Race or Gender
- Age (if a person is over age 40)
- Sexual Orientation
- National Origin
- Engaging in certain protected conduct, such as filing for worker’s compensation, being a whistleblower, or exercising rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.
What is the Real Reason You Were Terminated?
Suppose you announced (or your employer noticed) that you had become pregnant. Your employer then made your job more difficult – maybe removing you from more lucrative customer accounts (causing your commissions to decrease) or otherwise made it more difficult to do your job well.
A few months later, your boss told you that you were being fired because your performance was below expectations. Is this a wrongful termination?
Most likely, yes.
The answer to this question depends upon the real answer regarding the motivations of your boss (and the company) that led to your firing.
Was there a significant change regarding how you were treated after your boss found out you were pregnant? Did they express an interest that they wished you were not there, or that they did not want to have to pay for your maternity leave or allow you to go to doctor visits? Have they treated other pregnant workers similarly?
Most employers understand that they may not terminate employees for illegal reasons, and thus won’t admit the real reason why they are firing an employee at the time of termination. Instead, they will discuss other reasons, such as poor job performance, arriving late one morning, or some other reason that sounds legitimate.
These supposed reasons for firing are often referred to in wrongful termination cases as a “pretext”, which is a legitimately-sounding reason to cover an illegal action. In other words, the company is trying to cover up the fact a worker was actually fired for an illegal reason so that if questioned, they can point to some other reason for the termination.
We Will Uncover the Truth
As a law firm, we are experienced in uncovering the facts, even when defendants try to cover up their actions. We depose witnesses. We can subpoena emails and other documentation. We will want to determine if documents have been altered.
In most cases, when an employee is terminated for a wrongful reason, there will be separate evidence that supports the illegal motivation. It may be that a boss was overheard complaining to an executive that the employee was “too old” or “the wrong color”, or had the “wrong” sexual orientation. Emails can often be used to confirm the actual reasons that a person was terminated. Evidence can also be obtained that show that a terminated employee was set up to fail in their job, or that the employee was fired for doing something that was widely done by other employees who did not face any form of reprimand.
When we accept a case for wrongful termination, we will investigate thoroughly to find the truth.
My Employer is Not Being Fair When I Was Fired – I Want to Sue
Suppose your boss is a jerk. One day, your car breaks down on the way to work, and you don’t arrive until the middle of the morning. Although you called your boss to let her know that you would be late, nonetheless your boss fired you as soon as you arrived at work.
Do you have a case for wrongful termination?
Most likely, not.
You can’t sue for wrongful termination because your boss is a jerk or did not treat you fairly. Remember – as an at-will employee, your boss is free to fire you for any reason, so long as the reason is not illegal.
Thus your boss can fire you for arriving late, even though it was not your fault.
Your boss could also fire you for arriving at work early, or even for arriving on time. Or, your boss could simply fire you for no reason. As long as the “real” reason that you were fired was not illegal, your boss does not have to be fair.
My Boss is Trying to Make Me Quit Because He Doesn’t Like Gays – Should I Quit?
The answer to this question is always “no”, at least for preserving your legal rights.
If you quit, your case will be significantly weakened, as you likely be seen as the one who caused the termination.
Instead, if you are being discriminated against for an illegal purpose, you should contact a lawyer to learn about your rights, and to determine what actions you can take to protect your interests. If you are actually being discriminated against, you may likely have a valid discrimination claim.
If I’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated, Do I Have to Look for a New Job?
In general, yes. Even if you have been wrongly terminated, you should be actively seeking new employment. When a person is wrongly terminated from a job, this does not mean that the company owes the person damages for the rest of their life; so to protect your interests, you will likely want to seek a new job. It is possible in some cases for an employee to get their job back; however, this is usually not the normal outcome, and often it will not even be the desired outcome for the terminated employee.
If you have been illegally terminated, we can help.
Please call of our firm to find out about your opportunities for seeking compensation from those responsible. We accept wrongful termination cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that there is no fee for our services unless we are able secure compensation for our clients.