Fired during the holidays? A guide to your rights.

Fired during the holidays? A guide to your rights.

LawChamps
 | 
This week, the CEO of Better.com, a mortgage company, fired 900 employees during a Zoom call. 

What a Scrooge.

If you were one of these 900 employees, or if you also have been let go right before the holidays, you may be wondering if you have any legal grounds to fight your termination.

Understanding the term at-will

Your first step should be to look over any paperwork you received when you were hired. If your position was classified as an "at-will" position, that means an employer can fire an employee for any reason without warning. (It also means the employee can walk off a job without any warning - bye bye, bad boss!)

All 50 states are at-will states. 

So in most cases, you can be fired (or quit) without warning. You usually can't file a legal claim against an employer for being terminated. 

But there are exceptions

An employer cannot fire an employee if the reason for doing so is illegal or discriminatory, such as firing someone because of their gender, race, or religion.

If you have reason to believe you were let go because of your gender, race or religion, it's time to get in touch with a lawyer. 

Another "illegal" termination involves the term 
 public-policy exception to employment at will.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this means it is illegal to fire an employee "when the termination is against an explicit, well-established public policy of the State. For example, in most States, an employer cannot terminate an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim after being injured on the job, or for refusing to break the law at the request of the employer."

Another way you can pursue a legal claim against a former employer is to argue that the employer violated an implied contract. 

This means the employer may not fire an employee when an implied contract has formed between an employer and employee. For example, courts usually side with employees (depending on the state) when an employer's handbook states that an employee will not be fired except for good cause or it lays out a process for firing, and then the employer does not follow those rules when firing someone. 

In some states, lawyers can also argue that a person was 
wrongfully terminated under the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing exception to at-will employment.


This means you can file a legal claim against your former place of employment if you were let go in an attempt to deprive you of the benefit of your employment agreement. Examples include an employer who:

  • terminated you in violation of its own personnel policies,
  • terminated you in order to keep you from enjoying benefits to which you would have otherwise been entitled under your employment agreement (like a pension or pay already earned), and/or
  • lied about the reason you were fired.
Reach out to a lawyer before you sign anything

Companies will often ask terminated employees to immediately sign a waiver or release of claims, especially if they are dangling a severance package in front of you.

You may want to talk to an attorney before signing. Don't let your emotions get the best of you. 

So before you sign anything,
talk to one of our experienced employment laywers. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 
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