Whether you call it getting fired, sacked, laid off, or being made redundant, it is never a good feeling when the decision for you to stop working at your job comes from your employer and not from you. Under ideal circumstances, you would stay at your job until retirement, leave when another employer offered you a similar position with better pay, or sign a contract that specified an end date for our employment, such that you could leave your job on good terms and know from the beginning when it was time to start looking for your next job. Unfortunately, employment relationships that end on good terms can be as elusive as amicable divorces and conscious uncouplings. In some instances, it is hard to fault your employer for terminating your position, such as when there is a large-scale corporate downsizing, so most of your coworkers are in the same boat with you. Other times, though, you can feel it in your bones that your employer was wrong to terminate your position. If your employer unfairly terminated your employment, contact the Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Your Employer is Free to Fire You Except When They are Not
Not everyone who is upset about being laid off from their job has grounds for a wrongful termination of employment lawsuit. Alabama is an at-will employment state, where employers can terminate workers’ employment for no reason, if they so choose. The exceptions to this are if the employee was hired with a contract that grants the employee certain rights, such as a severance package, and the employer terminates the employment relationship before the date specified in the contract. Labor unions almost always arrange for severance packages in the employment contracts of their members, but even if you do not belong to a union or work in an industry where labor unions are active, you might be able to get an employment contract where your employer must fulfill certain obligations to you if they end your employment relationship earlier than they promised.
Even though Alabama is an at-will employment state, there are some reasons for which your employer is not allowed to terminate your employment:
- A protected characteristic of yours, such as race, gender, marital status, age, or religion
- You complained about discrimination against you, based on a protected characteristic
- You participated in an investigation about discrimination by your employer against another employee at your company
- You reported a workplace safety violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- You requested a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability
- You took an unpaid FMLA leave to care for a sick family member or because of your own illness
- You filed a workers’ compensation claim or received expensive treatment or paid leave through workers’ comp
- You participated in an investigation into alleged misconduct by your employer
If your employer fires you or lays you off from your job for any of these reasons, it is wrongful termination of employment, and you may be entitled to compensation because of it.
Determining Why Your Employer Terminated Your Employment
If employers were always straightforward about their reasons for terminating workers’ employment, then employment discrimination lawyers’ jobs would be much simpler. Instead, employers often use euphemisms like “corporate downsizing” and “restructuring.” It is not possible to read your employer’s mind, but sometimes you can connect the dots. If your contract is up for renewal each year, and the only year when you took FMLA leave is the year that your contract did not get renewed, the termination of your employment might be retaliation for using your FMLA leave. Likewise, if you reported a workplace safety violation to OSHA, and then your employer started reducing your hours and eventually told you that you are not as indispensable as your coworkers, the feeling that it is retaliation for your decision to speak up in the name of workplace safety is not all in your imagination. Your Alabama employment lawyer can help you make the judge see what you see in terms of your employer’s motivation for terminating your employment.
Do Not be Fooled by That Shiny Severance Package
Do not assume that it is not wrongful termination of employment simply because your employer offered you a severance package. It is true, however, that if you accept the severance package, that you cannot sue for wrongful termination; perhaps this is why the employer offered you the severance pay. Severance agreements can be a way to keep employees from noticing that the termination of their employment was an act of discrimination or retaliation.
Under Alabama law, if you are at least 40 years old and an employer offers you a severance package, the shortest deadline the employer can give you for deciding whether to accept a severance package (and thus to waive the right to file an age discrimination lawsuit) is 21 days. If you are older than 40 and your employer gives you less than 21 days to decide, contact an employment lawyer to review the separation agreement before you decide to sign it.
What to Do if Your Employer’s Decision to Terminate Your Employment Was Unfair
If you decide that your employee’s decision to terminate your employment while keeping most of your coworkers on the payroll was unfair, talk to an employment lawyer. You might have grounds to sue for wrongful termination of employment or for employment discrimination. If you file a wrongful termination of employment lawsuit, the court might award you damages for the financial losses you suffered when you lost your job through no fault of your own. In many instances, your lawyer can convince your former employer to pay you a settlement without even having to go before a judge.
Contact an Alabama Employment Lawyer About Wrongful Termination
An Alabama employment lawyer can help you stand up for your rights if your employer terminated your employment out of discrimination or retaliation. Contact the Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.