Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Case?
Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Case?
By Scott Skaletsky
Nobody likes to get fired, but it’s especially trying when you think you are being let go for unjust reasons. If so, you may be able to file a wrongful termination case.
Employers have the legal right to fire employees “at will,” but they are not allowed to fire employees for reasons that violate an employee’s rights. Yet last year, there were 4,444 discrimination charges filed in the state of Illinois alone. According to statistics from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC) the five most common reasons for discrimination charges in the state of Illinois in 2018 were:
Retaliation. Retaliation, or someone being discharged out of vengeance, spite, or personal dislike, accounted for nearly half of the employee discrimination complaints in the state of Illinois last year. When a superior has a personal problem with an employee, it is all too common that the employee is fired without due legal cause. I have had clients who originally accepted their termination as a personality issue with their manager until they found out that their firing was due to retaliation and their rights were actually being violated.
Racism and Sexism. Discriminating against an employee because of their gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation, is also illegal for employers in Illinois.
Disabilities. If you are suddenly being fired after you share your most recent cancer diagnosis with your employer, or feel you are being unjustly terminated because of a new or existing physical condition, you may be facing discrimination and justified in issuing a complaint.
Age. Employees in the age group 40-70 are in a protected class. If you are suddenly replaced with a younger person after showing outstanding performance, you may be a victim of ageism, which is an illegal cause for termination.
FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). Employers who must comply with FMLA (family and medical leave laws) must provide unpaid leave for qualifying employees to care for family members or pursue medical treatment, with the right to reinstate when desired. When an employee is terminated before or after taking a leave, discrimination may be in play.
A relatively recent change in the wrongful termination law in Illinois has made it easier to bring a wrongful termination case against an employer. In the past, employees would have to file a complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the termination and await investigation and the issuance of a right-to-sue letter (usually done in 90 days) before filing a lawsuit against their employer. Now, Illinois Human Rights Act has been changed to be consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, allowing charges of discrimination to be brought within 300 days. Moreover, within 60 days of the receipt of the Department of Human Rights notice, a plaintiff can opt out of the administrative process and then the IDHR has ten business days in which to send a right-to-sue letter.
If you make a complaint of discrimination in the workplace to the EEOC, you are exercising a legal right, and any activity on the part of the employer to punish, hinder, or stop you from doing so is illegal. If you are terminated and convinced you are a victim of discrimination, I would also advise against you trying to settle the matter internally. Accusing your superior of discrimination without legal backing may put you at a disadvantage.
However, if you file a complaint which goes under investigation, the best way to support it is to have evidence that you have been an excellent employee. Keep written records of good reviews, achievements, and glowing comments from co-workers and clients. Document suspicious treatment with an email to a co-worker so you have a report in writing. If you have evidence that are doing good work but are still fired, your claim of wrongful termination becomes more probable.
If you have not been the best employee but still feel you are a victim of discrimination, it still makes sense to speak with an employment and labor attorney. They are the most knowledgeable resource to understand if you have a wrongful termination case and just how strong it is.
At Gardi & Haught, Ltd., we encourage anyone who believes they may have been a victim of a wrongful termination to contact us by clicking on the free case evaluation button below to discuss their case. We have the experience and ability to represent you well and make sure you are treated justly in the workplace. Contact us for free consultation.