Your rights regarding employment vary based on where you live. In “at will” employment or “right to work” states, in theory, you can be terminated for any reason. In reality, it is illegal to fire someone due to medical issues, family status or personal beliefs unless it renders them unable to perform the duties of their job. Here is some advice on how to protect yourself from wrongful job termination.
Work as Long as Possible
The ideal situation when threatened with termination is to work as long as possible so that you can build up a savings fund, take advantage of your health benefits and look for another job. If the issue is wrongful termination, seek to prolong your time on the job while you seek legal advice. By seeking legal advice while still with the company, you may be able to arrange a transfer to working in another department or termination of a bad boss instead of having to leave the company.
If your employer informs you that you’ll be laid off after your Family Medical Leave Act term ends or is otherwise terminated, seek legal advice before you return to work.
If you are concerned about a wrongful termination, start documenting everything. Write down the details of conversations regarding declining work performance after taking FMLA. Make copies of emails that show why someone took you off a project, assuming it was not because you were out on leave while the work continued.
Make copies of your performance evaluations, reprimands and any other Human Resources paperwork. You should consult with an attorney if your absence under FMLA was cited as a reason for demotion or punishment. However, if you requested a schedule that involves fewer hours or less travel and received less pay as a result of decreased job responsibilities, this is not a case for legal action.
Another issue to document is how your current situation may have affected your employment. A pregnant woman may have been banned from working in an electronics assembly clean room due to chemical exposure of the unborn child. The employer is wrong to fire the woman in this case and should have offered alternative tasks instead. If you were unable to do physical labor required as part of the job, the employer should have sought to accommodate the illness or disability wherever possible. Document all related messages and conversations. Just don’t copy confidential information, customer lists or trade secrets or you’ll be the one in violation of the law.
Also, document your final timecards and sales figures to ensure that you are properly paid in your final check. Seek to resolve any paycheck advances or 401K loans while you are still with the company to avoid confusion later.
Document the reasons they give when you ask why you are being terminated. If the company lists something different on the paperwork they file with the unemployment office, then you have the grounds to challenge the refusal of unemployment benefits.
Seek Legal Advice When It Is Necessary
If you are losing your job, ask about severance. If severance is normally offered and it isn’t offered to you, consult with an attorney. If the company is demanding a non-compete agreement be signed that limits your ability to take other positions, talk to a lawyer. Note that you have the right to receive a copy of any contracts they demand you sign, such as confidentiality agreements and non-compete agreements. If the company tries to terminate benefits before the legally required deadline, such as saying you actually quit when you went on FMLA to have a baby, consult with an attorney that is specialized in family medical leave act cases, such as Florida FMLA attorney Celler Legal.
Another factor to consider is when the company asks you to resign instead of being fired. If you resign, you may lose your ability to file unemployment, discrimination and whistleblower claims. It could also make you ineligible for severance pay.
Talk to an attorney before you resign.