Nobody expects to get fired, but unexpected terminations happen all the time. Sometimes there’s a good reason for termination, like when an employee breaks a serious rule or compromises someone’s safety. However, sometimes employers don’t have a good reason to fire someone.
With at-will employment, employers who want to evade anti-discrimination laws don’t give a reason for termination. They think if they don’t give a reason, they can’t be held accountable for discrimination.
In a legitimate termination, that’s true – employers who aren’t engaging in discrimination don’t have anything to worry about. However, no-cause terminations aren’t always legal. In fact, many people have won wrongful termination lawsuits for discrimination after being terminated without reason.
Wrongful termination doesn’t just happen to bad people. Unfortunately, good people get fired for illegal reasons all the time.
Were you recently terminated from your job? Do you believe your termination was retaliatory or discriminatory? If so, you can file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your former employer.
Whether you’ve already filed or are considering filing, here are five tips for proving and winning your case.
1. Document everything thoroughly
According to WrongfulTermination Law Group, documentation is the key to winning your wrongful termination case. Make sure you document every incident, every comment, and every conversation related to your case. This includes conversations with your boss, upper management, customers, and co-workers.
If part of your documentation is in your work email, download a copy while you still have access to that email account. If you don’t have access to your work email, try to recall the content of your emails and document what you can remember.
Once you have all of your documentation, create a timeline of events in chronological order. Include every detail possible, including the date, time, and location where the incidents or conversations took place. For example, if a conversation occurred in the break room, be sure to document the location of that conversation. Also document other people who may have witnessed each incident. You might need to call on them as a witness in court (if they’re willing to testify or write you a statement).
Documenting details will help you win your case in several ways. Details make your testimony more credible, and the judge is likely to lean toward your side of the story if your employer doesn’t have good documentation.
2. Consult with a wrongful termination lawyer immediately
Wrongful termination cases are often complex and require legal expertise to win. No court case is easy to win, pro se, but wrongful termination cases can be challenging to prove as a layman. On the other hand, attorneys know the law inside and out and can look at similar case histories to strengthen their strategy.
If you believe you can win your case alone, it’s worth reconsidering to at least get a free consultation with a wrongful termination lawyer. You’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping legal counsel.
3. Find out if your employer broke any laws
Hopefully, you can have a lawyer help you determine if your employer broke any laws. If you haven’t talked with a lawyer yet, or if you’re planning on self-representation, you’ll need to do some extensive research.
Start by researching laws around protected activities and protected classes. For example, if you believe you were terminated in retaliation for filing a complaint with HR, and you can prove it, that will help you win your case. Employees cannot be fired in retaliation for filing a valid, formal complaint within the company (or outside of the company).
Next, consider whether your termination is related to discrimination based on gender, age, or disability. Do you believe you were terminated because your employer found out you have a disability? Were you terminated after making a request for a reasonable accommodation at work? Did you experience sexual harassment or discrimination based on your sexual orientation?
Next, find out if your termination was related to a violation of labor law. For example, did you get fired after being reprimanded for refusing to waive your 30-minute meal break?
In most states, employees can’t be required to waive their meal breaks as a condition of employment. For meal break waivers to be legal in these states, there must be a written agreement in place stating that you are voluntarily waiving your meal break. Some states require these waivers to be signed daily, and they are only legal for certain types of businesses.
Last, consider the timing of your termination. Did you recently report an injury or file a claim? Even though businesses are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, it’s common for employees to get fired after filing a claim. Some business owners see people who file claims as a liability, even when the workplace environment was responsible for the worker’s accident.
4. Don’t say anything to your former employer
The most important tip for winning your wrongful termination case is to not say anything to your employer. Your lawyer will advise you on how and when to communicate with your former employer.
While your former employer will eventually know you’re filing a lawsuit against them, you don’t want to show your cards too early. You also don’t want to do anything that will risk losing your case. Getting fired can be an emotionally upsetting experience, and it’s in your best interest to stay silent until and unless your lawyer advises you to contact your former employer.
5. Be respectful and honest in court
It won’t help your case to lie or exaggerate about your circumstances in court. Don’t assume that the judge won’t take you seriously without embellishing your case.
Stay truthful and respectful in court. Don’t speak out of turn, even if your employer is making false statements. The judge will give you time to respond to their claims.
Stay focused on winning your wrongful termination case
No matter what happens, stay focused on winning your case. Having a positive attitude alone won’t help you win, but it will keep you focused and prevent you from slipping into a negative state of mind.
Don’t allow yourself to feel negatively about winning your case. You can’t control how the judge will rule, but you can always control how you react and respond.