What are the steps I should consider if I am wrongfully terminated? What are my risks as an employee and/or an employer?
Losing a job can be the beginning of difficult and traumatic times, especially if you are the sole or primary “breadwinner” for the family. Presumably, unemployment is available. Nevertheless, in today’s economy, losing a job can mean months, if not years, of searching and applying for new jobs, perhaps at a lesser rate of pay, and can quickly become overwhelming and frustrating. Terminating an at-will employee is also problematic for the employer because of the risk that the former employee will make claims of wrongful termination due to a suspect reason.
Being downsized from employment is fundamentally different than losing a job based on a wrongful termination and is even more frustrating, as the basis for the termination is incorrect and impermissible under the law. Again, this is different from merely being an at-will employee let go by an employer who is downsizing or restructuring; but it may, nevertheless, be couched in those terms. This is where lawyers for wrongful termination may be able to help the former employee assert his or her rights or to protect an employer who is making a lawful at-will termination.
For the person terminated, the wrongful termination attorney can gather information regarding the particular circumstances related to the firing and try to piece together any illegal motivation. With this information, wrongful termination attorneys can help you determine if you have a viable case and, if so, analyze its strength, and weaknesses. Depending upon the legal analysis, this may help ease your mind as to some of the financial ramifications for the future.
The first step that a wrongful termination lawyer takes is to gather key information on your termination – the “who,” “what,” “when,” “why,” “how.” Next, he or she will compare your profile with the profiles of others who were terminated or kept their jobs, and/or may look for patterns. Each case is specific, so this may or may not be of use depending upon the number of people terminated. Sometimes, a key piece of evidence is whether the company followed its own policies and procedures manual for termination.
One potentially tricky area in a wrongful termination case is the fact that Indiana is a fairly strong “at-will” state with respect to termination of employment. Therefore, an employee in Indiana can generally be terminated for any or no reason by an employer at any time. However, termination cannot be for a discriminatory reason; and as such, if the actual reason for termination is age, sex, race, religion, etc., a cause may lie for compensation based on wrongful termination.
Being terminated for a discriminatory reason is grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit against your former employer and/or a claim with a state agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). In addition, the size and number of employees determines what laws must be followed by the employer as it relates to discrimination. Ultimately, you should consult and, if appropriate, retain wrongful termination lawyers to handle your case whether you are an employee seeking compensation for a wrongful termination or an employer defending a lawful, at-will termination.
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