Employment Termination FAQ – Know Your Rights

At Merrick Law Firm LLC, we understand that losing or leaving your job can be a difficult and confusing time. It’s important to be aware of your legal rights when facing job termination. Our FAQ aims to answer some of your critical questions and help guide you during this transition.

Under What Circumstances Can My Employment Be Terminated?

In most cases, unless you have an explicit employment contract stating otherwise, your employment is likely “at will.” This means your employer is permitted to dismiss you for nearly any reason, as long as it’s not unlawful. Unlawful reasons include discrimination based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, age, religion, disability, national origin, and other specific attributes.

Reasons for termination could be job-related, like unsatisfactory performance, frequent absences, or misconduct. They could also be unrelated to job performance, such as personal conduct outside of work, so long as the reason for firing is not illegal.

If you are under an employment contract, the stipulations of that contract would dictate permissible reasons for job termination. These contracts may detail specific offenses that could lead to dismissal or provide a more open-ended approach, requiring “good cause”—a substantiated, business-related rationale—for termination. If your contract specifically indicates that your employment is at will, then, similar to those without a contract, your employer retains significant flexibility regarding termination grounds.

How Can I Determine if I Possess an Employment Contract?

Contracts are not always formal, written documents. Verbal agreements between you and your employer can constitute binding contracts under certain circumstances. Promises made by your employer could also be counted as contractual agreements.

Consider seeking legal counsel if you face termination under questionable circumstances, especially if:

  • You received assurances of job security or dismissal only on the basis of substantial work-related errors or business failure.
  • Promises were made regarding a prolonged and stable tenure with the company.
  • You have a verbal arrangement with your superior regarding employment terms or duration.

What Constitutes an Unlawful Termination?

Your employer is prohibited by state and federal laws from discriminating against you or dismissing you based on protected characteristics or for any retaliatory reasons. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Participation in union organization or activities
  • Bringing attention to or reporting hazardous work conditions
  • Whistleblowing, or exposing illegal activities within your workplace
  • Exercising your legal rights, lawful conduct, and personal political or religious convictions

If you suspect that your dismissal stems from an illegal motive, reach out to Merrick Law Firm LLC at (312) 269-0200 for tailored legal advice, or contact your state department of labor and/or fair employment agency for additional information.

How Can I Safeguard My Rights Before Exiting My Employment?

Preserving documentation relating to your dismissal is pivotal, regardless of whether you wish to challenge its legality. This can support your case should you apply for unemployment benefits or face objections to your claim from your previous employer.

Secure a copy of your personnel file and all its contents, making a note of every document included. Keeping a journal detailing significant work-related events, along with dates, times, locations, involved management members, and witnesses, can provide substantial support for your records. Always corroborate your notes with materials provided by your employer, such as the employee handbook, memos, and performance reviews. Remember that removing or copying confidential documents from your workplace is ill-advised and could undermine your legal standing.

The information provided here is intended only for general informational purposes and does not substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney. As laws frequently change, Merrick Law Firm LLC encourages you to consult with our legal team to discern how current law applies to your individual situation.

For guidance tailored to your specific circumstances or additional information, contact Merrick Law Firm LLC at (312) 269-0200. Our knowledgeable attorneys are ready to assist you with your employment law needs.

Leveling the Playing Field for Employees

Fill out the contact form or call us at (312) 269-0200 or (402) 951-9330 to schedule your consultation.

Contact Us