Losing a job hurts. But depending on the circumstances, you can do a lot to defend yourself against a wrongful termination and recover what you have lost. Although North Carolina is an at-will employment state, your employer cannot fire you for discriminatory or certain retaliatory reasons. Obtaining justice in these cases can be challenging, but our Winston-Salem wrongful termination lawyers at EMP Law are highly experienced and can help you overcome daunting odds in workplace disputes.
What Is At-Will Employment?
Thankfully, your employer’s power in the workplace is not absolute. Under North Carolina and federal law, your employer cannot use a termination or adverse employment action to discriminate against you based on your membership in a protected group or retaliate against your involvement in a protected activity.
What Is Wrongful Termination?
A wrongful termination is a termination motivated by discrimination or unlawful retaliation. Under state and federal law, many employees enjoy protection from these types of terminations.
If your employer makes an adverse decision against you or harasses you because of one of the following reasons, you may have a discrimination case:
- National origin,
- Religion, or
Your employer is also liable if they retaliate against you for making, inquiring about, filing or assisting with a discrimination complaint. If your employer commits a discriminatory act, you can make an internal complaint, or you may file a discrimination complaint against them with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Private, state, and local employers must have at least 15 employees (20 in age discrimination cases) for the EEOC to intervene. And the EEOC can intervene with federal employers regardless of workforce size. Determining whether your employer is covered is not always a simple question, so it is best to speak to a wrongful termination lawyer in Winston-Salem, NC to preserve your rights.
Not only should your membership in a protected group not be a reason for a wrongful termination, neither should your participation in protected activities.
Under North Carolina laws, these protected activities include:
- Asserting your rights under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act,
- Claiming benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act,
- Asserting your rights under the Mine Safety and Health Act,
- Participating in the National Guard,
- Asserting your rights under North Carolina’s domestic violence laws,
- Carrying the sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait,
- Asserting your rights under the North Carolina Pesticide Law,
- Engaging in lawful activities outside of work,
- Asserting your rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act,
- Participating in the juvenile court system for your child,
- Asserting your right to take leave to tend to your child’s schooling needs,
- Using genetic testing or counseling, and
- Asserting your rights under North Carolina’s Workplace Violence Prevention law.
Employees retaliated against or fired for the above reasons can file lawsuits or retaliation complaints with North Carolina’s Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Bureau (EDB). 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.
How Do I Prove My Wrongful or Retaliation Case?
Sometimes you can prove your wrongful termination case with evidence regarding what your employer said about your protected status or activity (direct evidence).
Sometimes you need to prove your wrongful termination claim by proving your employer’s inconsistent behavior toward you (comparative evidence). Your employer’s inconsistent behavior toward you compared to other employees, or compared to treatment you received before revealing a protected status or activity can be key in proving your case.
Regardless of the theory you use to prove your case, the types of evidence you need to prove it can be the same, such as:
- Employment contracts,
- Employer emails,
- Other employer correspondence,
- Employment handbooks and policies,
- Job advertisements,
- Witness testimony (including yours),
- Personnel records,
- Disciplinary records,
- Commendations, and
- Discrimination complaint history.
You do not always have access to these types of evidence on your own. In fact, North Carolina law does not require your employer to give you access to your personnel file.
When you anticipate filing a complaint, collect what you legally can, and you can leave the rest of the hard work to your skilled Winston-Salem wrongful termination attorney. Experienced NC wrongful termination lawyers know how to utilize the complaint system and various legal tools to get the best evidence for your case.
How Can a Wrongful Termination Case Help Me?
State and federal laws against wrongful termination can provide harmed employees with many benefits.
A victim of wrongful termination in Winston-Salem, NC could win:
- Back pay,
- Job reinstatement,
- Compensation for related financial losses,
- Compensation for emotional harm,
- Employee benefits,
- Punitive damages,
- Attorney fees, and
- Legal costs.
Sometimes employees and discriminatory employers can work out these awards in a settlement. Sometimes employees need to file a wrongful termination lawsuit to get the relief they deserve under North Carolina state law. An experienced employment attorney can help you get the maximum recovery in the negotiation room or the courtroom.
Contact an Experienced Winston-Salem, NC Wrongful Termination Attorney
A workplace dispute can hurt you everywhere, and it is difficult to fight on your own. You are better off hiring a Winston-Salem wrongful termination lawyer, especially if you hire us. At EMP Law, we are skilled, experienced, and determined to fight for employees’ rights. Our law firm has been successful many times over, recovering significant compensation for harmed employees. Please talk to us if you need a champion in your corner.
We Can Help You.
Please complete our Employment Law Questionnaire.