Employers can terminate people for a nearly infinite number of reasons. Company policy and unique industry concerns could create unusual scenarios that only apply to one specific profession or type of business. There are also many generic reasons to lose a job. People lose their jobs for a slump in their performance, for inappropriate conduct and for violations of company policy.
Any of those reasons would be legal and appropriate explanations for why a company would choose to terminate someone’s employment arrangements. However, there are some reasons for terminating a worker’s employment that violate their rights and possibly also state or federal statutes. Wrongful discharge occurs when a company fires someone for an illegal reason.
Examples of wrongful discharge would include terminating a worker who asked for an unpaid leave of absence to undergo medical treatment or who reported harassment by a supervisor. Workers have the right to hold employers accountable for a wrongful termination that violates their rights, but to do so, they first need to recognize a wrongful discharge when it occurs. How do employers sometimes hide inappropriate termination decisions?
They delay the actual discharge
Most businesses know better than to fire someone the same week that the worker reported possible embezzlement by a manager or a pay disparity between the sexes in their department. Instead, they will try their best to obfuscate the true cause of the firing.
Many companies will use progressive discipline as a means of hiding the true reason that they want to sever an employment relationship.
How progressive discipline works
Depending on your employment contract and the situation, there may be two different approaches employed by a company hoping to justify what is truly a wrongful termination. The first involves write-ups or verbal discipline for minor rule infractions.
If the company starts enforcing rules against you that they historically don’t enforce against anyone else, that is a warning sign that they may want to take further action against you. Multiple infractions will give the company justification on paper to terminate your employment even when the motivation was really a complaint that you made to human resources or an accommodation you requested.
There is another version of the same process that involves giving someone poor performance reviews. If your boss suddenly takes issue with how you do your job but your job performance has remained the same, those poor reviews could potentially be a cover for an upcoming wrongful termination.
Those who recognize that their employer may have violated their rights sorry may have grounds to take their employer to court and either get their job back or seek financial compensation for the impact of the termination. Learning more about wrongful discharge can help you determine if your employer may have violated your rights.