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When is employment termination unlawful?

On Behalf of | Jan 6, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination |

Sometimes, the words “fired” and “terminated” are used interchangeably. But, in the context of employment law, “termination” doesn’t just mean “fired.” An employee can be terminated by being fired, but they can also be terminated via layoff or buyout.

As a result, wrongful termination occurs any time that a worker’s employment ends under circumstances that are unlawful on the part of their employer. Wrongful termination – sometimes referred to as wrongful discharge – usually involves unlawful discrimination or unlawful retaliation. Wrongful terminations also occur when employees quit voluntarily due to the development of a hostile work environment. Here’s more information:

Unlawful discrimination

Federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination based on age (over 40), color, disability, genetic information, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, and a number of other immutable characteristics. 

When a worker is terminated – subtly or obviously – due to unlawful discrimination, they likely have cause to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. 

Constructive discharge

Constructive discharge occurs when a worker feels compelled to quit or resign due to the development of a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment occurs when a reasonable person would perceive the situation in question to be offensive, intimidating, abusive, or otherwise hostile. 

All too often, workers who have voluntarily left their positions don’t pursue legal action against their employers because they are under the impression that quitting or resigning voids their right to seek justice. In hostile work environment cases, this isn’t true. Workers can generally hold their employers accountable for either creating a hostile work environment or failing to prevent one. 

Unlawful retaliation

The law defines certain conduct to be “protected activities.” If an employer terminates a worker for engaging in a protected activity, this turn of events constitutes unlawful retaliation. 

Asserting one’s right to be free of employment discrimination and harassment is a protected activity. Other protected activities that are regularly cited in wrongful termination lawsuits include requesting reasonable accommodations for a disability and taking a period of lawfully-protected parental leave. 


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