A wrongful termination lawsuit is currently taking over the biggest headlines. After acquiring the social media platform, Twitter, Elon Musk fired roughly 50% of Twitter’s staff without giving them proper notice. He’s now facing a serious class action lawsuit from those who were wrongfully terminated.
Not all wrongful termination lawsuits make headlines. In fact, many Chicago wrongful termination cases are small-scale and don’t have the power in numbers that a class action lawsuit has.
The good news? Even if you’re the only employee filing a lawsuit, an experienced wrongful termination lawyer can build a powerful case.
The question is, when should you talk to a wrongful termination lawyer? We’re here to tell you. Read on to learn more.
Defining Wrongful Termination
It’s reasonable to feel angry or wronged after getting fired. However, simply being fired doesn’t mean that you have been wrongfully fired. In order to file a lawsuit against your employer, you will need to feel confident that you can establish the case that you were wrongfully fired.
Wrongful termination is a legal term that refers to the termination of an employee that violates federal or state law. Common types of wrongful termination cases include:
- discrimination against an employee based on race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, disability, genetics, sexual orientation, or age
- retaliation against an employee who has recently complained or expressed the intent to complain about illegal or problematic behavior in the workplace
- violation of other workplace laws
Both federal and state laws are in place to prevent these types of firings. However, they do still occur, and employees have a right to take legal action when they do.
Laws That Protect Employees from Wrongful Termination
Employees are protected at both the federal and state level from workplace discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal administrative body that investigates when an employee alleges their employer has discriminated or retaliated against them in violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity laws that protect employees at a federal level. Most states also have their own administrative body and laws that protect employees from discrimination or retaliation on similar basis, including Illinois.
These laws and agencies are designed to put a stop to both discrimination and Retaliation against job applicants and employees.
Signs That You Need a Wrongful Termination Lawyer in Chicago
Knowing your legal rights isn’t always enough. Many employees aren’t sure when those laws come into play or what violations of those laws look like. Let’s take a look at several common examples of wrongful termination so that you have a better sense of when to contact a lawyer.
You Were Fired for Discriminatory Reasons
Proving that discrimination led to your termination isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. It helps to keep a record of all exchanges between you and your employer surrounding your termination, as well as conversations leading up to it. If they’ve made any comments indicating that they have a bias against your protected identity, this will help to build a discrimination case.
It’s also worth taking note of the demographics of your former workplace. For example, if you were the only woman or Black employee and you were the only person fired, you may have a discrimination case on your hands. If firing you shifted the dynamics of the office and made it more homogenous, this will help your case.
You Recently Revealed a Protected Characteristic
If you were fired not long after revealing a protected characteristic, you can likely build a case for wrongful termination. This includes, but is not limited to, telling your employer that you are:
- disabled, mentally ill, or chronically ill
- not heterosexual
- not cis-gendered
- a member of a specific religion
Again, it is not always easy to prove that revealing this protected characteristic led to your termination. However, an experienced lawyer can help you build a case if one is to be made.
You Recently Filed a Complaint or Blew the Whistle
Let’s talk in more detail about what retaliation means from a legal standpoint. Your employer is obligated to protect your rights in the workplace. When they fail to do so, either by letting illegal behavior (i.e. harassment) slide or by perpetuating illegal behavior, you have a right to complain.
For example, you might file a complaint with HR after a manager sexually harasses you or another employee. You might alert outside organizations to illegal activity within your company, an act that is often referred to as whistleblowing. Retaliation is the illegal act of firing an employee who tried to assert their legal rights, protect the legal rights of others, or put an end to illegal activity within the company they work for.
You Recently Exercised a Legal Right
Employees have additional protected rights beyond the protection against discrimination and retaliation. For example, you are allowed to take time out of your workday to vote in a local, state, or federal election. Many employees are also entitled to 12 weeks of family or medical leave thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act.
If you were fired after exercising one of these additional employee rights, you may have a wrongful termination lawsuit on your hands. Exercising these rights cannot constitute all or part of the reason for your termination. For example, missing work while on FMLA leave cannot show up in a warning or write-up regarding your absence from work.
It’s not always easy to keep up with your legal rights as an employee. This is one of the many reasons why you should contact a wrongful termination lawyer if you have the sense that you were fired illegally. Wrongful termination lawyers are experts when it comes to employment law.
You Were on the Brink of Earning New Benefits
Many companies offer incentives and an increase in benefits to employees who remain with the company for a certain period of time. For example, you may be vested in stock options after a certain number of years. You may also be guaranteed a pension or other retirement benefits if you stay with the company for a set amount of time.
If you were on the brink of qualifying for these benefits when you were fired, you may have a wrongful termination case on your hands. This is especially the case if you had a strong track record with no (or minimal) grounds for legal termination. An experienced lawyer can help you to establish that your employer fired you to save money or other assets that you were owed.
Your Employer Violated Your Contract by Firing You
Not all employees are employed “at will.” In other words, there are many employees who work under contract, and those contracts come with specific rules regarding the length of employment and termination. It is illegal to breach an employment contract and doing so is automatic grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
For example, your contract likely says that you can only be fired on the grounds of certain actions, such as gross misconduct. If you have not committed these specified acts, your employer was not allowed to end your employment until the contract was up. All employees who work under contract should familiarize themselves with the terms of their contract to protect their own rights.
You’re Firing Is Part of a Larger Trend
As we’ve mentioned already, the above conditions aren’t always easy to prove. For example, it’s difficult to prove that an employer fired an employee due to racist or sexist beliefs. However, if you’ve observed a pattern in their behavior, this is important information to take to a lawyer.
While this does not have to turn into a multi-person or class action lawsuit, you will need proof of the pattern you are claiming your former employer exhibits. This can include testimony from current or former employees, written records, and more. Establishing your wrongful termination as part of a larger trend will strengthen your case and improve your chances of winning.
Talk to a Chicago Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today
If you believe that you are the victim of wrongful termination, the next step is to talk to a Chicago wrongful termination lawyer. An experienced lawyer will have expertise regarding the rights of terminated employees. They will help you build a strong case against your former employer and increase your chance of winning.
Where can you turn after wrongful termination in Chicago? Turn to the Lázaro Law Group. We have years of experience with employment law and have defended many victims with cases like yours. Contact us today for a case consultation.