A wrongful termination could occur in several different ways. An employer could terminate a worker in a manner inconsistent with their existing employment contract. They could also make termination decisions based on a worker’s protected characteristics, like their sex or race.
However, many wrongful terminations are the result of employer retaliation rather than overt discrimination. Companies may sometimes inappropriately punish workers who simply try to assert their basic rights.
When might a worker be at higher risk of a wrongful termination due to retaliation?
After reporting harassment or discrimination
If a worker endures mistreatment because of a protected characteristic, they should feel safe reporting that to their employer. The same is true if they feel that someone in management or human resources has made employment decisions based on personal factors rather than job performance. Your company should look into allegations of harassment or discrimination rather than firing you shortly after your complaint.
After reporting illegal activity
Some employees may act as whistleblowers, advising management or even government agencies about what they believe is an illegal activity. Whistleblowers have protection under federal law and should not face any sort of punitive action from their employer, regardless of whether they reported the misconduct internally or to a government agency.
After participating in an investigation
Workers should feel free to speak up when they notice misconduct on the job or mistreatment of their co-workers. When the company investigates allegations of harassment or discrimination, workers should feel safe telling the truth rather than worrying that they will face punishment for confirming that a manager has engaged in inappropriate behavior.
Identifying incidents that may trigger wrongful termination can help you push back when your employer punishes you for doing the right thing.