The Problem with Wrongful Termination

What is wrongful termination?

Texas, along with most states, has an at-will employment policy. This policy essentially states that the employer can end the employment contract at any time, for any reason, without prior notice. With guidelines like these, it appears that there would be no such thing as a wrongful termination, at least in the eyes of the law. However, there are several exceptions to at-will employment which employees can use against their previous employer.

Some of these exceptions revolve around contracts between the employee and the employer. When an employer and a worker enter into one of these contracts, they agree to alter the circumstances of the at-will employment agreement. Although these contracts can be verbal, the vast majority of them are written. This is for obvious reasons; it’s far easier for an employee to document a written contract, and much it’s much harder to prove that a verbal contract between an employer and a worker even existed. However, if these contracts can be documented, and it’s determined that the employer breached them in firing their employee, that worker does have a viable wrongful termination suit.

There are other exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, largely centered around established federal laws. If an employee is terminated for committing an action within their rights, that the employer disagrees with or doesn’t like, then the terminated worker can file suit. These kinds of lawsuits are known as retaliatory termination suits. For example, if an employee files a worker’s comp claim with their employer, and are then terminated in retaliation to that claim, the employee has a valid wrongful termination suit. It’s also illegal for an employer to fire someone because of their report or claim of workplace harassment. It’s useful to keep track of the process one goes through when filing worker’s comp or reporting harassment so that documentation is available if one is fired in retaliation for taking advantage of these common worker’s rights.

Wrongful termination conditions also apply to federal anti-discrimination laws. An employer cannot terminate a worker on the basis of their race, sex, or sexuality. If you fall into one of these protected classes, you are sheltered by federal law from being terminated by your employer because of it.

Even with all these safeguards in place, wrongful termination suits are still very difficult to win in a state like Texas, which has anti-worker attitudes and laws. To successfully litigate a wrongful termination suit, meticulous documentation is needed to prove that one’s employer did in fact violate a contract or engage in retaliatory termination. Texas courts are likely to side with the employer due to the at-will employment doctrine unless the employee can show irrefutable proof that their employer violated one of these laws. For this reason, it’s essential that employees stay vigilant and document their interactions and agreements with their employer.