When it comes to work, your employer runs the show. They get to decide what you do, how much you get paid, and whether you can return to work the next day.
But is every employer choice, including job termination, lawful?
Employers have a lot of discretion in making hiring and firing decisions, but North Carolina and federal laws do not allow employers to make choices that are discriminatory, against public policy, or in breach of a contract. Additionally, some work activities are protected from retaliation.
If you believe your employer has fired you illegally, you can file a complaint with the government or sue for wrongful termination. A Charlotte wrongful termination lawyer can help you build a successful case. You can find a skilled Charlotte wrongful termination attorney at EMP Law. We have decades of experience helping employees throughout North Carolina and a passion for helping the working community.
When Is a Termination Wrongful?
The answer to this question is key because North Carolina is normally an employment-at-will state.
Employment at will means that your employer can fire you at any time, for any reason. Your employer can also fire you for no reason. But there is an exception to this employer power: your employer cannot fire you for an unlawful reason.
Discriminatory Wrongful Termination
There are certain personal characteristics that are protected from discrimination, including job terminations.
Federal and North Carolina laws make it illegal for employers to fire employees because of the following protected characteristics:
- Age (40 and over),
- National origin,
- Religion, or
If you believe you were fired because of one of the above characteristics, that is unlawful discrimination. Also, remember that discrimination on the basis of your sex or gender can include sexual harassment, discrimination against your sexual orientation, and discrimination against your gender identity.
To seek justice, you can file a job discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or you can file a lawsuit in civil court. Facing a discriminatory employer alone is not an easy task, and you will likely need expert help to achieve justice. A skilled wrongful termination lawyer in Charlotte, NC can handle the difficulties of your case and significantly increase your chances of success.
Retaliatory Wrongful Termination
Another type of wrongful termination is retaliation.
In North Carolina, an unlawful retaliatory termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for:
- Refusing to perform illegal acts;
- Taking certain family leave protected by statute;
- Serving in the military;
- Making protected complaints regarding workplace safety;
- Asserting their rights under wage and hour laws;
- Having the sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait;
- Using genetic testing;
- Engaging in lawful activities outside of work;
- Claiming workers’ compensation benefits; or
- Participating in juvenile court matters for their child.
Firings for these purposes are firings in violation of public policy, and they are illegal. If you were fired for one of these reasons, you can file a lawsuit in court, or you can file a complaint with the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Bureau.
Charges for protected activity under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) must be filed no more than 180 days after the adverse employment action. The EDB will investigate your case, and may intervene, offer mediation, or issue a Right-to-Sue.
Wrongful Termination in Breach of Contract
Your employer can choose to limit their power under the employment-at-will rule by entering an employment contract with you. If your employer agreed to employ you for a certain period of time—or not fire you unless you committed certain infractions—but did not honor those terms, you can sue for wrongful termination as a breach of contract.
You can have increased job security rights under an individual employment contract or any collective bargaining agreement that applies to you. If anything feels odd about your job termination, have your Charlotte wrongful termination lawyer review your employment contract immediately.
What Can I Win in a Wrongful Termination Case?
If you win a wrongful termination case, you can receive:
- Back pay,
- Job reinstatement,
- Compensatory damages for related financial losses and emotional harm,
- Punitive damages,
- Attorney fees, and
- Legal costs.
When you start a claim or complaint, your employer might try to settle the matter with you before trial. Whether you settle or choose to litigate your case in court, it is best to speak to an attorney about the value of your case and what strategy fits your unique goals.
How Do I Prove a Wrongful Termination Case?
Some employees can prove a wrongful termination through the direct discriminatory or retaliatory statements of their employers. Others can prove wrongful termination by showing discrepancies in treatment between them and employees with different personal characteristics.
Whatever argument you have for your case, you can prove it through:
- Employer correspondence,
- Employment contracts,
- Employer guidelines and policies,
- Personnel records, and
- Witness testimony.
A skilled employment attorney has the tools and expertise to get the best evidence for your case.
Contact Our Charlotte Wrongful Termination Lawyers
If you are the victim of wrongful termination in Charlotte, NC, you have rights, and our attorneys are here to back you up. At EMP Law, we are industry leaders and educators in employment and labor matters. Not only do we have the knowledge, experience, and skill to bring you the best results in your employment case, we have done it many times before.
We Can Help You.
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