Know the Basics of Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination is a grim experience. This is a combination of being fired and a breach of employment law. This type of termination is an extremely complex situation. If you believe you've been terminated unjustly, you should first seek legal advice from a specialist employment lawyer.


"Wrongful termination" means being fired on an illegal basis. There are several categories of wrongful termination:

  • Discrimination: This is termination on the basis of race, age, gender, religion, and place of origin, and depending on state law in some cases sexual preferences.
  • Refusal to engage in an action which breaches law: No employee can be obliged to do anything illegal. Employee also cannot be terminated for reporting illegal acts by employers.
  • Claims for workers compensation: No employee can be terminated for making a claim for compensation.
  • Good faith and fair dealing: This is a principle of employment which implies that employees are entitled to fair treatment. It particularly applies to any reward or benefit to which the employee may have a claim. This principle isn't recognized in some US states.
  • "Constructive discharge": This situation arises when an employer imposes conditions on an employee which are intolerable, under which any reasonable person would resign.
  • Personal relationship issues: Improper advances, abuse, and other relationship issues may form parts of the circumstances relating to wrongful termination.
  • Breach of contract, implied or explicit: A contract may be a verbal undertaking or an actual written contract. There may be clauses detailing the basis of termination of a contract. Breach of these terms may constitute wrongful termination. Please note the existence of a contract of employment may affect other considerations regarding wrongful termination. It's advisable to seek professional legal guidance regarding any issues related to contractual obligations.

What to do about wrongful termination

Pro bono lawyers are an option, if you're worried about legal costs. To take effective action, the issues involved in a wrongful termination have to be organized into a viable case. Wrongful termination disputes require a lot of information:

  • A clear description of the circumstances of the termination.
  • All information supplied to you by the employer regarding the termination.
  • Any information which relates to the history of the issues.
  • Supporting evidence from colleagues, or other information.

From this information, the lawyer must determine if you can successfully bring a case against the employer. In the US, employers are deemed to have a right called "Employment at Will", meaning the right to hire and fire. The exceptions to this right are those covered by law or legal principles, as outlined above. The court must decide whether the employer was acting within the rights of "Employment at Will" or not. 

The court must additionally determine whether the employer has breached applicable laws or principles of law by the termination of employment. There are also elements of "natural justice" which may be applied to some cases in which an employee has been fired without due cause, or for an unjust cause. Courts may also take into account treatment of employees and relevant conditions of employment.