“At will” employment means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time without having to provide a reason, and an employee can leave his or her position at any time without providing a reason. An employer may not terminate you for reasons prohibited by law, such as being in a protected class (such as race, sex or national origin) or participating in protected activities.
If you have a contract or other documentation promising you that you will only be subject to termination with “good cause” or other such language, you could be able to file a claim stating you are not an at-will employee. You can also file a wrongful termination claim if you have reason to believe you were fired on the basis of being a member of a protected class.
The claims process can be complicated, so it is important to work with an attorney you can trust. For more information about how to begin, contact a skilled Washington, D.C. wrongful termination attorney at The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell.
Elements to prove in a wrongful termination case
What you need to prove in your wrongful termination case depends on the reason for your termination. If, for example, you were the victim of discrimination, you need to prove that you were a member of a protected class, and that members not in your protected class were generally treated better than you.
If you believe you were fired because you refused to partake in fraud at your workplace, or because you reported fraud, you would need to have documentation of the fraudulent activity and examples of how you were treated in the workplace before and after you took your action.
Frequently asked questions on wrongful termination
Our team at The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell regularly receives questions about a variety of employment law issues, including wrongful termination. Here are some examples of these questions.
Do I still have a case for wrongful termination if I quit?
You can still file a wrongful termination case if you quit, but winning your case becomes more complicated. You must be able to demonstrate that you were essentially driven out of the company because the conditions at your job had become so bad you had no other choice than to walk away. These circumstances are common in workplace harassment cases.
How do I file a wrongful termination claim?
You must file an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination or harassment, if your claim is based on discrimination or harassment. For other types of wrongful terminations claims, you do not have to file the claim with an administrative agency first—you can instead go straight to court with the assistance of your employment lawyer.
Will I be able to get my job back after a wrongful termination case?
Reinstatement is one of the more common remedies in wrongful termination cases. However, in many cases, the working relationship between employer and employee has been damaged beyond repair. Courts are reluctant to force reinstatement in these types of cases. If reinstatement is not an option for you, you could receive monetary compensation instead, including lost wages, benefits, job search costs and various noneconomic damages.
Can I collect unemployment benefits after being wrongfully terminated?
Yes—unemployment benefits are not just available to people who were laid off. If you are wrongfully terminated, be sure to explain the circumstances when filing an unemployment claim, and attach documentation that supports your claims.
What are some examples of protected actions?
Common examples of protected actions include filing a discrimination or harassment complaint, filing a minimum wage or overtime claim, reporting a workplace safety violation, reporting corporate fraud or wrongdoing, taking federally granted leave (such as FMLA leave), filing a workers’ compensation claim and refusing to participate in illegal conduct.
Contact a skilled Washington, D.C. wrongful termination attorney
To learn more about the steps you can take if you believe you have been wrongfully fired from your position, contact a trusted Washington, D.C. employment law attorney at The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell.