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4 Steps to Take When You Have Been Wrongfully Terminated

April 5, 2017 | Posted in: Hostile Work Environment

Unjustly losing a job disrupts your life and finances like almost nothing else. How you respond within the first minutes and days of receiving a termination notice you did not expect and do not believe you deserve — or actually hearing, “You’re fired!” — will make a world of difference in whether you can quickly move on to a better employment opportunity. What you do immediately in the wake of being let go can also set the stage for holding your former employer accountable for a wrongful termination.

What Is a Wrongful Termination?

You should never lose or leave a job without a good, legally justifiable reason. You can leave to take a better position, or the organization can let you go for economic reasons. Poor performance and misconduct also constitute legitimate reasons for getting fired.

A wrongful termination, however, happens when an employer does any of the following things:

  • Retaliates against a worker who reports unlawful activity, engages in permitted union activity, or takes legally protected leave (such as FMLA).
  • Terminates a worker on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, age, pregnancy, or military service status.
  • Makes working conditions so intolerable that a worker is forced to quit, which courts and lawyers call “constructive discharge.”

A Columbus, Ohio, lawyer who handles wrongful termination cases will also use the term “adverse employment action.” Getting fired for an illegal reason is as adverse as an employment action gets. It also gives the wrongfully terminated person the legal right to seek compensation and damages by filing an employment lawsuit.

To maximize your chances of succeeding with a wrongful termination suit, take all these four steps.

Step 1. Remain Calm

No matter how sudden or unfair a firing strikes you as being, do not cause a scene, seek revenge, damage equipment, or email a list of grievances to management and staff. Taking the high road makes it easier to find a new job and prevents your former employer from presenting evidence that they had to let you go because of poor behavior. Also, if you are terminated for an unlawful reason, but you later do something that would be a perfectly legitimate reason to be terminated (such as causing a scene or damaging equipment) that could severely hurt any legal claim you may have.

Step 2. Ask for a Written Notice

Ask your employer to specify in writing why you are being fired.

You will be asked to present this information when you apply for unemployment benefits. The termination notice will also be a key piece of evidence in a wrongful termination or employment discrimination lawsuit. During an arbitration hearing or court case, the employer will need to prove the truth of each of the statements it made in the written termination notice.

However, your employer is not required to give anything in writing – so if the employer refuses, just try to document the reason for termination yourself.

Step 3. Have Any Severance Agreement, or Other Separation Contract Reviewed by an Employment Lawyer

This is a good idea even if you do not think you were fired unjustly.

Employers must comply with federal and state laws when offering separation pay, making payouts for unused leave, transferring retirement funds, offering ongoing health insurance coverage, and requiring compliance with nondisclosure and noncompete agreements. An attorney with in-depth knowledge of wrongful termination of employment law will ensure that the employer has met all its legal obligations.

Step 4. Keep Lines of Communication With Supportive Co-Workers and Supervisors Open

Circling back to step one in many ways, do not burn bridges just because you lost your job. Maintaining professional relationships with fair-minded supervisors and keeping up friendships with empathetic co-workers will benefit you in many ways after you get fired.

First, having a support network will make it easier to survive a period of unemployment with your mental health and self-esteem intact. Beyond offering moral support, your contacts at your old job can offer leads on and introductions to future employers.

Last, if you do have grounds for a lawsuit based on an illegal adverse employment action, you may need to rely on testimony from supervisors and co-workers who can corroborate your statements about what happened. Knowing how to directly and confidentially get your employment lawyer in touch with people who can support your claims will help avoid obstruction and blowback from your former employer.

To get in touch with lawyers who handle wrongful termination lawsuits in Columbus, OH, call the Friedmann Firm at 614.610.9755 or fill out this online this online contact form. Our attorneys offer free initial consultations.