What are your rights and what should you do?
In most states, unless you are under written
contract, your employment is called “at will”
Under employment at will, employees have
no "property rights" to their job; employers are
free to dismiss employees "at will," without any
reason or cause.
Many companies will then proceed to an exit
interview. This is where they inform you of
certain rights and warn you about giving out
information about their company.
You maybe asked to sign an agreement that could
be disastrous to you and because you are still
in a state of shock sign without understanding
everything contained in the document.
For example, in a recent case the employer
terminated employee and offered him a severance
package containing a few months wages. At first
glance it sounded good and allowed him time to
find a new job without having to sell the house
and car. However, buried in the small print is a
non-compete which tells him he can not do
what he has always done for a living for two
years, sell. What this means is that they
have eliminated him as a potential competitor
because he gave up the right to sell for 2 years
for a couple of months severance pay.
Fortunately, he had enough wit about him not to
sign and see a lawyer. The lawyer helped him
negotiate a severance package without getting
into a hole.
Remember, the only reason an employer wants you
to sign an agreement is to benefit them. It is
perfectly alright to sign an agreement provided
that it is fair on both sides.
There are reasons that an employer may not
No discharge for discriminatory reason (for
example, age, sex, race, disability).
No discharge just because employees exercise
their rights under a Worker's Compensation
Act, , or other state, federal or local law
which establishes specific rights or
benefits to an employee.
Public Policy (i.e., being a witness at a
Collective bargaining agreements or
specified contracts of employment.
Employers today are often finding themselves in
the defendant's seat refuting an 'unjust
dismissal' claim brought by a disgruntled
employee. While 'unjust dismissal' cases are
defined state-by-state, here are some issues for
every employer to consider:
Unjust dismissal claims are based on the
concept that employees do have some
Former employees can argue that an implied
contract exists, even when there is no
written contract, which protects employees
against dismissal as long as they are doing
Employees may argue that where there are
written contracts, parties must practice
good faith and fair dealing, not look for
loopholes or hidden meanings to escape
obligations (such as finding an excuse to
dismiss in order to avoid paying a bonus).
To defend such cases, Employers must show
sufficient cause (a defensible reason) for
When courts rule that there was "unjust
dismissal," employees may receive lost wages
and benefits as well as possible damages
Emotional distress--emotional stress and
humiliation caused by a discharge.
Abusive discharge--employee is insulted
or verbally abused as well as dismissed.
Outrageous conduct--the intentional
infliction of emotional distress, as in
deliberately harassing an employee to
force resignation or being extremely
abusive or cruel in the course of
Negligent evaluation--when company
conducts performance reviews but fails
to alert employee that employment is in
jeopardy from poor performance.
Defamation--harming a person's
reputation by libel or slander.
Punitive damages--awards used to punish
a defendant and to prevent repetition of
the offense by the defendant or others.
If you think you have been terminated wrongly,
consult with a lawyer. Know your rights.