If you’re wondering whether living in an at-will employment state like Virginia means that there’s no such thing as “wrongful termination,” then you’ll be happy to know that it doesn’t.
In an at-will state, business owners are pretty much free to fire you for any reason — as long as that reason isn’t a form of illegal discrimination or retaliation. Just the same, countless employees unfairly lose their jobs every year. Here’s what you should know about the rules.
What does at-will employment mean?
Virtually every state in this country is an at-will one. This doctrine allows employers to terminate an employee without cause for any lawful reason. It also affords employees the right to leave their job roles without giving any notice that they’re planning to do so.
What are some unlawful grounds for terminating an employee?
It’s unlawful for a company to let a worker go due to their belonging to a protected class, such as ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion. It’s also illegal for an employer to fire workers because they suffer a medical emergency or take time off from their job as per the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
An employee who loses their job after going on jury duty, filing a workers’ compensation claim, becoming a whistleblower or taking a break per existing laws may also be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer.
There are instances in which employees may not fire a worker but instead cause the workplace to become so toxic that their employee feels like they have no other recourse available to them other than to walk away. Situations like these may warrant a worker filing a wrongful termination lawsuit on constructive discharge or dismissal grounds.
What are your rights as someone who’s been wrongfully terminated?
Many employers are familiar with what constitutes wrongful termination of an employee. They may try to subtly usher you out the door without thinking that anyone will notice their unlawful actions.
If you think you’ve been illegally dismissed from your position, it may be time to speak to an attorney about the situation. They can help you better understand your rights and options.