What is an example of wrongful termination that violates public policy?

If your discharge from your employment violates public policy, then you have the right to act against your former employer for wrongful termination. Employment is generally defined as “at-will”Opens in a new tab. for both employers and employees and may be terminated by either party without cause. Wrongful termination is often an exception to the at-will principle.

Many states recognize the limits of an employer’s right to exercise at-will employment as set by public policy. The public policy exception to at-will employment is not recognized by Alabama,

Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New York, and Rhode Island.

When you desire to make a wrongful discharge claim because of a violation of public policy, you must demonstrate that:

  • There was a clear public policyOpens in a new tab. that existed and was manifested in state or federal constitution, statute or administrative regulation, or in common law
  • Dismissing employees under these circumstances would jeopardize public policy
  • Your dismissal was motivated by conduct related to said public policy, and
  • Your employer lacked overriding legitimate business justification for the dismissal

Clear Public Policies

A clear public policy typically involves reporting felonious criminal activities. This can also involve reporting unsafe working conditions that violate the law. If a healthcare worker inflates costs at the behest of their employer when reporting to Medicare, that is a violation of the False Claims Act.

Violations of public policy do not always involve a criminal act. Some acts may also be considered a violation of public policy when it disregards the safety and general welfare of the public.

Employee Conduct and Termination

The plaintiff has to establish a direct link between their behavior, the public policy violation,  and your termination. This is essential for establishing causation in your claim. You’ll need to demonstrate that your employer terminated you because of your behavior regarding an established public policy.  

Lack of a Justification for the Termination

It’s also your duty and the duty of the wrongful attorney representing you also to prove there was no legitimate justification for your discharge. If your employer already planned to eliminate your job due to a reduction in force, and you’re terminated, then this employer will likely have a legitimate business justification for letting you go.

Discharge and Unlawful Termination

Wrongful termination, also referred to as discharge or unlawful termination, is a pillar of employment law. Wrongful termination occurs if an employer terminates an employee for an illegal reason.

Wrongful termination typically involves the following legal issues:

  • Advocating appropriate care for a customer, client, or patient
  • Disclosing improper practices affecting the public at large
  • Discussing wages with colleagues
  • Refusing to release your employer from liability for intentionally egregious acts
  • Refusing to sign non-compete covenants
  • Requesting overtime pay
  • Reporting unsafe working conditions
  • ​​Reporting employment discrimination
  • Right to a workplace free of violence
  • Right to receive earned wages promptly
  • Termination for refusing to do something illegal
  • Testifying against the company at a hearing
  • Violation of family or medical leave lawsOpens in a new tab. (FMLA)
  • Whistleblowing regarding fraud against the government

Employees are legally entitled to file claims against their employers without facing termination for doing so. Many states have whistleblower laws in place to prevent unlawful terminations from happening for this reason. The following employment activities are protected:

  • Filing an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) complaint
  • Leaving work for public policy reasons
  • Participating in mandatory investigations,
  • Reporting harassment or discrimination in the workplace

Your termination can be considered unlawful if it occurs because of discrimination. If an employer terminates your contract because you are above a certain age, you could also be entitled to wrongful termination damages.

If you’re let go from your job, but it breaches the terms of your employment agreement, it may be a wrongful termination. Employment law officials suggest speaking with a wrongful termination lawyerOpens in a new tab. if your rights have been breached.

Illegitimate Reasons for Termination

Employees have been terminated for fraudulent concealment. Fraudulent concealment occurs if an employer intentionally misleads an employee about the requirements of their employment.

Fraudulent concealmentOpens in a new tab. can occur when an employer intentionally does not inform the employee about terminations, payment disputes, and any other reason that could be considered illegal or unfavorable in a tort court.

Your employer can not ask you to break the law. Doing so is a violation of your rights and may entitle you to an employment law claim. This can be dangerous, especially when safety rules are violated, leading to criminal charges.

Sometimes employers violate their own policies, and if you lost your job under these circumstances, you could be compensated. If your employer did not follow the proper procedures for termination, then speak with an attorney immediately.

Examples of Wrongful Termination

Employees generally assert they’ve been terminated for wrongfully if they are:

  • Exercising their legal rights
  • Refusing to do something illegal
  • Reporting illegal conduct

Wrongful termination violations are typically tried under tort lawOpens in a new tab.. Wrongful termination victims have recovered compensation for compensatory and punitive damages. Some states view wrongful terminations as a violation of contract law and do not permit the recovery of punitive damages.

Wrongful Termination In Violation of Public Policy

Employers are not permitted to terminate their employees when that termination violates public policy. Public policies can be violated when employees are terminated for engaging in activities protected by federal law or state statutes.

Whistleblower Rights

Whistleblower laws protect workers who report when their employers are breaking the law. Whistleblowers are protected from employment repercussions and termination if they report their employers to the police. Employees terminated for whistleblowing have the right to sue their employer.

Public Policy Violations

Wrongful termination occurs if an employer terminates an employee illegally. Public policy violations that fall under wrongful termination include:

  • Contract breaches caused by an employee’s termination due to wage disputes or illegal hiring practices
  • Retaliatory termination is caused when an employee engages in a legal and protected activity
  • Statute violations including discriminatory or retaliatory discharge

Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

If you’ve lost your job at no fault of your misconduct or poor performance, then you could have the foundation for a wrongful termination claim. Employment law specialists advise discussing your case with a knowledgeable employment attorney in your community. A wrongful termination attorney can help you decide on your best course of action.

If you decide that filing a lawsuit is the best path toward justice for your unlawful discharge, be sure to do so within the allotted time frame following your termination. Missing the statute of limitations for a wrongful termination based on a violation of the public policy could eliminate your right to damages.

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

The assistance of an employment law attorney can pay major dividends when you are involved in a dispute regarding your termination. Employment attorneys could help you obtain a legal remedy. Employment attorneys understand the policies that affect wrongful terminations in your state and can help you recover your financial losses.

Many employment attorneys will sit down with you at a free consultation to discuss your options.  Your discharge attorney can advise you regarding the various laws of your jurisdiction and how public policies are applied in your area, assist you with filing a lawsuit, negotiate a settlement, and represent you in court.

“Disclaimer: this is not intended to be legal advice from Open Sourced Workplace,  please consult with a local attorney who can advise you on your unique circumstances.”

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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