If you’ve recently lost your job, we know this is a hard time for you. Maybe you saw it coming, or maybe the termination came out of nowhere. Either way, it’s important to know your rights in these situations. When it comes to job termination, your employer doesn’t always have to play fair, but they do have to play lawfully. If you’re suspicious that your termination was not lawful, you might have the right to receive relief from your employer. To get a proper case evaluation, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.
General Job Termination Laws
Like many other states, Maryland generally subscribes to at-will employment rules. Employment at will means that your employer can fire you for almost any reason, or no reason at all. While this rule can make you feel like the cards are stacked against you when it comes to job security, there are some exceptions to the at-will employment rule. Your employer cannot legally fire you if the termination:
- Violates an employment contract, agreement, or policy;
- Is based on your membership in a protected group;
- Is founded upon your assertion of your rights as an employee;
- Is based on your refusal to participate in criminal activity;
- Is founded upon your fulfillment of a military civic duty; or
- Is based on a wage attachment for debt.
A termination based on one of the above-listed situations is normally either a breach of contract or a firing in violation of federal or state law.
Some of these situations are straightforward, but others aren’t. It’s important that you take note of significant events at work and document your interactions with management so it’s easy to identify a breach or violation.
Membership in a Protected Group
Generally, your personal, protected characteristics can’t be the reason an employer fires you. It’s unlawful for an employer to fire you because of your religion, race, ethnicity, color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or marital status. An employer can also be liable for wrongful termination if they fired an employee for their perceived membership in a protected group.
Assertion of Your Rights As an Employee
If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident and you want to file a workers’ compensation claim, your employer can’t fire you for that reason. Likewise, your employer can’t fire you for enforcing your rights to be paid earned wages, for exercising your right to workplace safety, or for participating in an investigation of your employer’s workplace violations.
Participation in Military or Civic Duty
Sometimes an employee has pressing obligations to the state or federal government. If you have to report to jury duty or military service, your employer cannot fire you for fulfilling those civic duties.
Recognizing a Wrongful Termination
Now that you know when a termination is wrongful, you need to determine if an unlawful situation applies to you. In many cases, if you recognize one of the following wrongfully terminated signs, you should know that you were terminated illegitimately:
- Your termination was in direct violation of language in an employment contract, agreement, or policy;
- Your employer made comments or engaged in activities referencing your membership in a protected group soon before your termination;
- Employees who weren’t in the same protected group as you received different treatment for engaging in the same behavior as you;
- Your employer made comments or engaged in activities referencing your debt/wage attachment soon before termination; or
- You attempted to enforce your rights or fulfilled a civic obligation soon before your termination.
In any one of these scenarios, it’s best to have as much documentation as possible to prove wrongful termination. Signs of wrongful termination are also much easier to prove if you can show that your work performance was satisfactory prior to termination. But you need to make sure that any documents you reference as proof of wrongful termination were obtained lawfully.
If you’re having any trouble gathering evidence to prove your wrongful termination, an experienced wrongful discharge attorney can identify and obtain what you need.
Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim
Once you’ve established that your employer wrongfully terminated you, you need to act quickly to file a complaint. You should also understand what kind of remedies are available to you in preparation for negotiations or a hearing.
There are many deadlines that can apply to your wrongful termination case. Generally:
- You have 30 days to file a complaint with State Fair Practices/EEO Offices;
- You have 180 days to file with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
- You have six months to file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights; and
- You have three years to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.
Picking up the pieces after a job termination can be draining. It’s often your best option to let an experienced lawyer handle your complaint and all of your deadlines.
If you’re the victim of a wrongful termination, you have many options for remedies. You could have a right to reinstatement of your job, back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, or an injunction. You should gather any proof you can find of out-of-pocket expenses you’ve had to cover as a result of your termination. You should also gather proof of the ways the termination has affected you mentally and emotionally. And you should gather proof of your employer’s intentional acts. All of this evidence can help you maximize your damages.
Reach Out to an Attorney to Champion Your Rights
Separation from your employment touches so many areas of your life that it can be particularly painful to handle. The attorneys at Smithey Law Group LLC, want to help you navigate these trying times. Our lawyers have won awards and authored numerous professional articles on employment law. We have many years of experience, and we want to use that experience to fight for your rights. Don’t face this tough time without a helping hand. Contact us online, or call us at 410-881-8190 to get the support you need.