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How Do I Prove Wrongful Termination?

Posted on in Workers' Compensation

You might be the victim of wrongful termination if your boss fired you from a job for illegal reasons. Although Illinois is an at-will employment state (meaning employers can fire employees for any reason or not reason at all), it is still against the law to terminate an employee’s relationship with a company because of discrimination or retaliation. If you believe you have a wrongful termination case, use an experienced attorney to help you prove your claim in court.

Understanding the illegal reasons for terminating an employee

There is a big difference between being let go from a job for legitimate reasons and being wrongfully terminated. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), there are around 150,000 wrongfully terminations each year in the US.

If we want to understand wrongful termination, we need to look at some of the illegal reasons people are fired from their jobs. These include:

  • Workplace discrimination

Data from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, we can see that there were over 72,000 discrimination charges brought against employers during the latest reporting year. Discrimination in the workplace takes many forms, and it is illegal to treat workers differently because of their:

    • Race or ethnicity
    • Religion
    • Disability
    • Age
    • Sex or gender
    • Sexual orientation or gender identity (protected by Illinois, not the federal government)

A worker cannot be fired from their job for reporting illegal behaviors or activities of their employer. Federal and state law prohibits a person from being terminated for complaining about or reporting:

    • unsafe working conditions
    • wage inequality
    • harassment or discrimination in the workplace
    • a lack of disability accommodations
    • illegal or fraudulent activities of the employer
  • Violating written or implied promises.

Employers are required to follow all contracts they sign with an employee. This includes any timeframes outlined in the contract, as well as disciplinary policies stated in the contract.

  • Violating public policy.

Employers must follow public policy when it comes to employees. Nobody can be fired for taking time off the vote, for jury duty, or to serve in the military or national guard. Employers cannot fire a worker who legally uses time off with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Document Your Experience

Write everything down as it happens. Keep a journal dedicated only to your wrongful termination case. Record the circumstances of your job termination, what your employer said, a timeline of events, and copies of all termination paperwork. Document your situation in as much detail as possible. Write down who was present, what each person said, and your impression of the event. Document your experience right away, while it is still fresh in your mind.

Keep track of everything related to your job: emails, paperwork, notices, and other official communications, such as reprimands or promotions. Save documents onto your computer or print them out for your records. Store copies of all information at home so you have easy access to everything. Keep all pay stubs and financial records relating to your job. This can help you establish your lost wages during a wrongful termination claim.

Learn About Your Employment

Next, find out if Illinois’ at-will employment laws apply to you. Some exceptions exist to the general rule. If you have a written contract that offers job security with your employer, you are not an at-will employee. Your employer will instead need to follow the rules of the employment handbook to terminate your relationship. Find your employee handbook or work contract and read the fine print. If it states your employer can only terminate you for certain reasons, you may have a wrongful termination claim. Keep any letters, guidebooks, or contracts that promise you continued employment.

You may not need exact proof of a written contract for the law to exclude you from at-will employment. An implied employment contract, such as emails between you and your boss that led you to believe you had job security, could suffice as evidence. If your employer ever made you a promise of continued employment, even unofficially, the rules of at-will employment may not apply to you. An attorney can look at how long you worked for the company, any job promotions or positive performance reviews, and whether your employer violated a law in firing you to determine the role of at-will employment laws in your case.

Collect Evidence of Wrongdoing

If you are basing your wrongful termination claim on discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, collect evidence that supports your experience. Document your examples of discrimination or harassment at work. Get the names of anyone who witnessed the incidents. If you spoke to your Human Resources department about the issue, keep a record of who you talked to and what they did after you reported the problem. If you went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with an official complaint, get copies of your file.

How will an attorney help your wrongful termination case?

When someone is wrongfully terminated, one of the most important aspects of a case is proving what happened. Despite a wrongfully terminated person’s best efforts, they may not be able to gather all of the evidence needed to prove their case. However, a skilled wrongful termination attorney will have the resources necessary to help. Your attorney will be responsible for:

  • Analyzing your case and the evidence you have gathered.
  • Working through the courts to request documents or file subpoenas to obtain possible evidence.
  • Speaking to your coworkers and supervisors about what happened.

Your attorney will be responsible for handling all communication with other parties involved, including your employer and their legal team. The goal is to negotiate a fair settlement that will compensate you fairly for your losses. Individuals without an attorney will face an uphill battle when going up against companies and other lawyers. A wrongful termination attorney can level the playing field.

What kind of compensation is available for these cases?

The total amount of compensation owed for a wrongful termination incident will vary case-by-case depending on a variety of factors. However, our wrongful termination attorneys will work to secure the following on your behalf:

  • Recovery of lost wages
  • Reinstatement to your job
  • Court costs and legal fees
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Possible punitive damages

The amount of money owed to you could be substantial, which is why it is vital to speak to an attorney about handling your case.

Hire a Wrongful Termination Attorney

Proving wrongful termination in Illinois will take demonstrating that your employer breached a contract, broke a law, or otherwise fired you based on illegal reasons. You will need sufficient evidence to support your claim, such as witness testimonies or documentation of your experience. A lawyer can help you with your burden of proof during a wrongful termination claim. You can work on getting back on your feet while your Springfield workers' compensation attorney handles the complex legal aspects of your case. Hiring an attorney is one of the best ways to prove your wrongful termination case.

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