Getting fired is a difficult thing to come to terms with. It can be embarrassing, frightening, and leave you wondering what your next steps will be. It’s never a fun experience, but what if you were wrongfully terminated? How do you know if your former employer broke the law by firing you, and can you take legal action against them?
What is Wrongful Termination?
Being fired illegally is called wrongful termination. When you hear the phrase “wrongful termination,” your mind might jump to someone who has been fired due to their race, sexuality, religion, or disability. Firing someone for any of these reasons would be illegal under federal discrimination laws. There are certain protected characteristics under these discrimination laws, including marital status and pregnancy, in addition to the characteristics mentioned above. It is also illegal to fire someone in retaliation for filing a complaint against the employer or trying to join a union.
What’s the Law in Ohio?
Ohio is an at-will employment state. This basically means that an employer has the right to terminate an employee for any reason without notice, and they do not have to tell the employee why they’re being fired. However, this doesn’t mean they’re exempt from the law. Certain types of medical leave, protesting hostile working conditions, as well as the protected characteristics mentioned above, are still protected in at-will employment states.
What if I’m Sick?
A common worry is that you could be fired for taking too many sick days. This causes even more concern for those with chronic illnesses. Fortunately, there are policies in place to protect those who are ill or have an ill family member- specifically, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. This act allows an employee to take up to twelve weeks off for their own medical care, or that of a family member. There are a few requirements to qualify for FMLA, but it protects you in the event of a serious illness. However, it is important to note, that it protects you from being fired specifically for taking time off to deal with your illness. It does not protect you from being impacted by layoffs, or being fired for a reason unrelated to your illness, such as performance issues.
I Think I Was Fired Illegally. What Do I Do?
If you believe you were a victim of wrongful termination, there are a few steps to follow. First, ask your employer why you are being fired. They may or may not give you an answer. Request access to your personnel file. This may help your lawyer prove that your termination was based on a protected characteristic. If you intend to take legal action against your former employer for wrongful termination, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you look at the facts and figure out whether or not you have a case.
What Can a Lawyer Do?
If you sue for wrongful termination, your lawyer may be able to help you get back lost wages or benefits, negotiate a severance package, and even receive compensation for emotional distress. It depends on the case, but you could settle for as much as $40,000 and in some cases even more.
We Can Help!
Don’t let your employer get away with firing you illegally. The lawyers at Steuer, Escovar, & Coleman Co., LPA are experienced in employment law and can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us on our website, or call us at (216)-666-5138 for a free consultation at our Cleveland, Ohio office today! Don’t wait too long- the statute of limitations on wrongful termination cases is often short. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your termination.