What is Wrongful Termination?

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Many executives call our offices looking for help when they have been discharged. They were strong performers who didn’t do anything wrong, or maybe had a minor infraction and never even got a written warning. They are certain that because of their strong performance, they can’t just be fired, right?

Wrong. The status quo in Illinois is that employment is at-will. This means that employment may be terminated at any time for any reason, or even no reason. However, this does not mean that employers are given free-range to fire as they please without repercussions. There are some protections which employees have. When employers terminate employees for these protected reasons, it is known as wrongful termination.

Wrongful termination is termination from employment for an illegal reason. Here is a list of some of the most common illegal basis for termination:

  • Discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, religion, age, disability, national origin, etc.
  • Complaining about improper compensation practices
  • Retaliation for Whistle-blowing

Employees subjected to wrongful termination may be able to recover damages, including back pay, legal fees, emotional distress, and punitive damages.

It’s not always clear whether an employee has been terminated for an illegal reason or not. The stated reason is not always the true reason for termination. A knowledgeable employment attorney can help you determine if you have suffered wrongful termination.