The U.S. Department of Labor has adopted many employment regulations, which it enforces with the goal of making every workplace a safe place for employees.
Despite the regulations, wrongful termination still happens often. Employers consistenly fire their employees for unlawful reasons, such as discrimination. No matter what employment law a particular state enforces, federal law always applies. Thus, even if a state has no anti-discrimination laws for protecting employees, for instance, federal law still prohibits employers from firing employees for illegal or discriminatory reasons under federal law.
This means that there is no place for wrongful termination in the United States. Most workplaces in the United States operate by employment at will, meaning an employer can discharge an at-will employee at any time and for any reason, as long as the reason is not illegal. The following are the illegal reasons for terminating one’s employment, whether it concerns an at-will employee or an employee working under a contract.
Under federal law, employers cannot fire an employee on the basis of their age, gender, race, national origin, religion, or disability. They also cannot fire a female employee because of her pregnancy or any health condition related to her pregnancy.
Some states have laws that include additional illegal reasons for employment termination. One of those reasons is sexual orientation. An employer running a business in such a state is, therefore, prohibited from firing someone only because of their sexual orientation.
Violation of Public Policy
An employer is in violation of public policy if they dismiss an employee due to certain reasons that are considered ethically wrong. For example, firing an employee because he or she exercised their legal rights, such as the right to vote or take maternity or family leave, would violate public policy.
As another example, employers may not fire an employee for so-called whistleblowing, or reporting an employer’s illegal activities. Similarly, an employer would violate public policy if they fire an employee for refusing to take part in an illegal operation, such as filing false tax returns or compromising crucial business documents.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was enacted to enforce workplace standards regarding protecting the safety and health of employees. OSHA laws and regulations seek to minimize workplace hazards and ensure the safety of all employees.
If an employer fails to meet OSHA standards, an employee has the right to report it. If an employee submits a complaint regarding their safety in the workplace, their employer is forbidden from firing them. According to Julius Lewis Sanders, a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, this is especially vital if an employee suffers an injury because of their employer not meeting state or federal safety and health regulations.
Invasion of Privacy
Employers nowadays collect a lot of information about their employees. Apart from the necessary personal information, many employers also monitor their employees’ emails, internet activity, and even phone records.
Many employers also require employees to take drug tests or a polygraph test in certain situations. However, an employee has the right to refuse to take polygraph tests. Therefore, if that happens, their employer is prohibited from firing them under the federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act.
An increasingly popular topic these days regarding the invasion of privacy and wrongful termination has to do with legal marijuana use. Medical and/or recreational marijuana is now legal in many states. However, just because it is legal in a particular state does not mean that it cannot be the reason for employment termination.
The laws vary from state to state. In some states, where medical marijuana use is legal, employers cannot fire someone if marijuana showed up on their drug test, as long as the employee consumed it while off-duty, and it has not interfered with their work. Other states allow employers to dismiss employees for the use of medical marijuana, even if they use it while off-duty.
An Employment Law Attorney Can Help with These Legal Issues
If you have reason to believe that your employment was terminated because for illegal reasons, seek help from a professional employment law attorney. They will assess your case and determine whether or not you were illegally discharged from work.
If your rights were violated, they would provide you with the necessary legal advice to protect your rights and help you take proper steps if you decide to file a lawsuit.
The same goes for employers. If an employee has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against your company, an experienced employment law attorney might be able to help. They will determine whether or not you are liable and help you take proper steps to protect your business.