Recently, a Michigan woman received $183,000 in a wrongful termination case against a medical center where she was previously employed. The woman claimed that the center did not follow the discipline procedure laid out in the employment handbook when it terminated her. The jury found in her favor and awarded her compensation.
The hospital claimed the woman was fired because she violated privacy laws by looking up the medical records of one of her family members. The woman claimed that the privacy issue was a pretext for a supervisor who didn't like her to fire her. The woman also brought a racial discrimination claim, but the jury rejected that part of her case.
Wrongful termination refers to any discharge of the employee by an employer in violation of existing laws. Various causes of wrongful termination include discrimination on the basis of gender, age, race or another protected category. Employers are also prohibited from firing an employee for making a claim of unlawful discrimination.
An employer can also be held liable for a breach of an employment contract by the employer. In some cases, even if there is no formal employment contract a disciplinary procedure set out in an employee handbook can be considered an implied contract which gives rise to obligations on the part of the employer. If the termination is in violation of the company policies laid out in the employment handbook the discharge may be actionable as wrongful termination. For employees who find themselves in such a situation, getting professional help may be the answer.
Source: MLive.com, "Jurors order Hurley to pay $183,000 in wrongful termination case", Gary Ridley, June 10, 2014